If an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, they will most likely see it first.
We’re talking about NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, which has now been in existence for 20 twenty years.
CNEOS makes over 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroid and comet discoveries.
It all began on March 11, 1998 with an ominous message from the Minor Planet Center, in Cambridge , Massachusetts, to astronomers around the world. The message contained new observational data on asteroid 1997 XF11, a newly discovered half-mile-wide space rock, that suggested that there was a chance of it impacting Earth in the year 2028.
The media at the time mistakenly assumed that message meant there was a probability that the Earth was doomed.
A scientific study at NASA’s JPL did some further analysis of the 1997 XF11 data and found that the rock posed no danger to the Earth.
NASA sought to fulfill a 1998 Congressional request for them to detect and catalog at least 90 percent of all NEOs larger than one kilometer in size, which equals to roughly two-thirds of a mile, within a 10 year period.
They came into existence in the summer of 1998 as the Near-Earth Object Observation Program. This new program was operated out of JPL.
In 2016, the name was changed to CNEOS.
After 20 years, the program has successfully discovered 90 percent of near-Earth asteroids and comets. Today, there are over 18,000 known NEOs and are at a forty per week discovery rate.
Now, CNEOS has a new goal; to discover 90 percent of the NEOs that are much smaller in size, around 450 feet, by the year 2020.
Although, these smaller sized asteroid don’t pose a global threat to the Earth, the do present a massive threat on a more local or regional scale, which present a threat to population centers with devastation and major loss of life.
CNEOS has no plans of slowing down after its successful three decades of operation.