What do hunters asteroids?
Sometimes people ask Carrie Nugent on the chances that the film "Armageddon" in 1998 will happen in real life, when scientists find that an asteroid the size of Texas is 18 days from hitting the Earth's surface with all the consequences. 33-year-old planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology, says that we are unlikely to be faced with so much. To avoid a collision, she tries to find as many asteroids as possible.
"The fall of an asteroid - the only natural disaster to prevent that we have the technology, and it's crazy, but it's amazing," she adds.
Most asteroids in our solar system - from 1, 1 and 1, 9 million of them are estimated at least 0, 6 kilometers in diameter - revolves around the Sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The largest known asteroid - is Vesta, about 600 kilometers across. There are other asteroids closer to Earth. Scientists have classified 1,808 of them within 50 million kilometers of the Earth's orbit as potentially dangerous. They can be dangerous if they enter the atmosphere.
The good news is, said Dr. Nugent that no asteroids that pose a threat to humans. It is known only one case where a meteorite hit the person (so called asteroid after a fall on the Earth). In 1954, Ann Hodges in Alabama hit an asteroid got through the roof of her house. Most recently, in February 2013, over Chelyabinsk in Russia flew and exploded asteroid. The result was a wave that porazbivali windows and damaged about 3,000 buildings. Great clash can be catastrophic: 66 million years ago, a large body blow put an end to the dinosaurs and changed Earth's axis of rotation.
At the moment, scientists have identified about 700 000 individual asteroids. By studying them, they can expect, and where they will be tomorrow, and the day after, and after 800 years. "Obviously, we want to find all the big and close to Earth," says Nugent.
"It's amazing that you can take the meteorite in hand and consider. With a black hole it will not work. "
Now she is looking for new asteroids at Caltech, studying the tiny, previously unseen points of light in the images of powerful telescopes, and then tracking their movement. This process still requires the presence of a real person, she says. "The human eye is better suited to this than the technology at the moment."
So, what can we do if an asteroid will actually threaten life on Earth? One of the options - to bring massive asteroid orbit spacecraft. It could use its own gravity to bring an asteroid on a new trajectory for several years or even decades. Or researchers could send high-speed spacecraft to one or collided with an asteroid, or let the part that hit him, and off course. Finally, there is the option "Armageddon": a nuclear explosion. The film crew blew up an asteroid from the inside. But in real life is not Bruce Willis, who will go and lay the warhead inside the asteroid. We'll have to blow it next.
Most of his time Nugent at the computer, considering the space of the image, creating computer code and checking e-mail. Her daily work is more like a work of ordinary people than many might think. Even in her honor is named asteroid 8801 Nugent.
Apart from possible threats as a result of the fall of the heavenly bodies, asteroids study helps scientists to understand what was the solar system billions of years ago. And in the future, it is also useful: companies are considering the possibility of developing the asteroids for the extraction of natural resources such as platinum.
However, the main purpose of Dr. Nugent - search for near-Earth asteroids that could pose future problems for humanity. She expressed the hope that all of these asteroids are on trajectories which take them from Earth. But this optimistic view.