Could radar telescopes be the key to protecting planet Earth?
According to the new ten-year survey of the national academies of science, engineering and medicine, one of the best tools to help protect the planet from the impact of near-Earth (NEO) objects such as asteroids is Earth’s planetary radar.
The ten-year survey, in which researchers look forward to the next ten or more years, calls for the further development of radar systems to help planetary protection using newly discovered NEO imaging. Those images could help determine the likelihood and severity of a potential impact. Fortunately, many of these projects are in the works by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which operates telescopes around the world, and by the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia.
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“Ground radar observations from NEOs provide valuable information for long-term monitoring,” the survey said. “Because the NEO impact energy scales with density, diameter and velocity and radar can constrain this, planetary radar observations are an important post-discovery characterization technique.”
Those tasks may have once been assigned to the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, once the most powerful radar and radio telescope system in the world. But Arecibo collapsed unexpectedly December 2020, leaving a gap in the industry.
The NRAO and GBO, however, were already updating the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) in Hawaii and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to work with Arecibo when disaster struck, e the two systems are now ready to help fill the void. (That said, the NRAO had clarified that these two systems are not designed to completely replace Arecibo.)
“At NRAO and GBO, we have a long history of participating in planetary radar studies and look forward to adding new capabilities to GBT and VLBA to produce a next generation radar system that will serve as an essential tool for planetary researchers. science and planetary defense “, Patrick Taylor, head of the radar division for NRAO and GBO, said in a statement.
The 10-year survey of planetary sciences and astrobiology 2023-2032 was released on April 19, 2022.