AirTalk for December 10, 2012

Objects in telescope are closer than they appear

"Near Earth Objects" by Donald K. Yeomans

While it seems that the occurrence of natural disasters is constantly on the rise, we can all be thankful that the worst possible scenario has yet to happen. Most people think of floods or earthquakes as the worst offenders to life and infrastructure, but the most potentially damaging threat is actually hanging above our heads.

Asteroids, and other “near-Earth objects,” could wipe out every single living thing if one of them were to crash into the planet. That’s why NASA created the Near-Earth Object Program Office as an effort to detect such threats to Earth and humanity. The manager of this program, Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist Donald Yeomans, has compiled some of the insight from his work in this field into a new book.

In “Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us,” Yeomans details the relationship between our planet and these terrifying space rocks. He also points out that without them, Earth as we know it would probably not exist, as collisions in the past have drastically affected the evolution of our world. How often does one of these objects pose a threat to Earth? What would be done if a crash seemed imminent?  Is there anything to be gained from this for our benefit?

Guest:

Donald K. Yeomans, Fellow and Senior Research Scientist at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, Supervisor of the Solar System Dynamics Group, and author of Near Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us (Princeton University Press)


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