Twitter alerts on deadly asteroids

NASA has turned to Twitter to warn when there are any dangerous asteroids in the neighbourhood. A new alert service will send tweets advising of giant space rocks about to swing past the Earth, with links to an Asteroid Watch website.

The space agency has also produced a website widget that will report objects coming within 4.6 million miles.

NASA’s Near Earth Object Office – dubbed Spaceguard – will also advise how close any asteroids or comets will come and their size so readers can check how close we come to Armageddon.

Hundreds of rocky fragments pass near the Earth and robotic cameras constantly scour the skies to look for new ones.

The new Twitter alerts, sent by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. A team there coordinates Nasa’s efforts to detect, track and measure up potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come this way.

Earlier this month, an asteroid up to a mile wide crashed into giant planet Jupiter leaving an impact scar the size of the Earth.

Earth has had a number of near misses in recent years. And the threat of an impact by a cosmic missile called Apophis in 2036 has still not been ruled out, though it is highly unlikely to happen.

The asteroid, which is 300 yards wide and weighs 25 million tons, will pass closer than geostatinary satellites in 2029 – an encounter that may make it hit us seven years later with the force of 65,000 atomic bombs.

NASA’s Spaceguard manager Don Yeomans, of JPL, said: “Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects. And I have to agree with them.

“I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth. The goal of our website is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects.”

Picture: An asteroid called Gaspra, photographed by the Galileo spaceprobe in 1991. (NASA).

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