An asteroid is headed towards Earth tonight and is estimated to miss the planet by a mere 310,000 miles. We know this thanks to a new tool from NASA called „Scout,“ which calculated that this particular asteroid is not a danger to our planet and its inhabitants.
By Susmita Baral | MOTHERBOARD
Scout is a computer program that’s being tested at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California as an early warning system. The program gathers data from multiple telescopes to identify which celestial bodies qualify as “Near-Earth Objects” (NEOs). The space agency defines NEOs as comets or asteroids that have entered “Earth’s neighborhood” from the gravitational pull of other planets. Data gathered by scientists from this year alone, according to the International Astronomical Union, have discovered over 1,500 new NEOs.
Scout is anticipated to be officially up and running later this year—and focuses solely on relatively small space objects, which are more difficult to spot since they are not as bright as larger asteroids. Take tonight’s asteroid, for example, which is estimated to measure anywhere from 16.5 feet to 80 feet across. Without Scout, smaller asteroids are often discovered right before they pass earth. With Scout, scientists can learn of smaller NEOs days in advance and then start calculating if there is any risk for Earth while also ordering other telescopes to confirm the findings.