Earlier in September, two asteroids whirled close to Earth, and another is passing in October, according to a September 2019 article by the International Business Times. For some students at the university, these asteroids present a life-threatening concern.
As reported by NASA, asteroids 2010 C01 and 2000 QW7 passed Earth Sept. 13 and 14 about 3.5 million miles away. While seemingly far from impact, the asteroids were within 30 million miles of Earth, fitting them within NASA’s criteria for near-earth objects (NEOs)
For Josh Wilson, a sophomore studying media production, space organizations should be creating a system to prevent potential NEO impacts.
“I wish we had some advanced space technology,” he said. “Space is ever-expanding, and it’s unknown to us to this day. How can we predict if the universe is going to go our way?”
In contrast, freshman Seth Rains, an accounting and finance major, said those on Earth should not be concerned, stating space organizations are dependable when tracking their paths.
“I don’t worry about it, and I figure I don’t really need to,” he said. “I trust the people at places like NASA. … I’d figure they’re pretty reliable since they put someone on the moon.”
In the past, space observatories have been able to spot dangerous NEOs before their approach. In June of this year, according to CNN, an asteroid named 2019 MO was detected and tracked 12 hours before impacting and burning up in the atmosphere.
However, according to BGSU Planetarium Director and astronomy professor Dale Smith, detecting these smaller NEOs can be a challenge.
“You have small things hit all the time. Quite a few are going to go unnoticed,” he said. “There was one just a few years ago.”
In 2013, a small meteor exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, generating a shock wave that injured more than 1,000 people and damaged around 4,000 structures, according to CNN. The NEO was unknown to space observatories prior to entering the atmosphere.
“Nobody saw it coming. (It was) meters below the threshold, so there was no warning,” Smith said.
While smaller NEOs can go undetected, larger, potentially devastating NEOs like the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs are typically detected years before passing Earth, according to Smith. He believes none of these will impact the planet during this century.
“We’ve probably found 90% of Earth crossers that are bigger than a kilometer. Census has been done over for about 20 years, so we’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “As we track them more, the error cone in projecting its path shrinks, so we’re safe.”
As explained by Smith, NEOs above a kilometer are capable of “catastrophic damage,” and currently, Earth cannot be defended against them.
“If you have an impact spanning globally, it’s over. There’s nothing we can do about them,” he said.
However, he believes a defensive system is a possibility towards the end of the century, but a specific plan of action would be difficult to establish.
“You just got to nudge them off course, (but) it could be more complicated than we think,” he said. “Defenses will come, but we don’t have them yet. This is beyond current technology.”
In the meantime, he said that students should not worry about the NEOs. Although, he is certain of an unexpected impact in the future.
“There is a risk. Huge risk, no. Enough to stay inside, no. But overtime, we’re a dartboard. Some are going to hit; some are going to miss.”