Cuts cast doubt on asteroid plan

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Plans to more precisely plot the orbit of an asteroid with a small chance of hitting Earth in 2036 may be badly hit by funding cuts to a US radar facility.

Radar measurements set to be made in January 2013 by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, US, could help rule out an impact by asteroid Apophis.

But the cuts mean Arecibo needs an extra $2m-$3m a year to continue.

If not, the observations planned for 2011-2013 will have to be abandoned, the facility’s director told BBC News.

Dr Michael Nolan said he was “moderately optimistic” that the money could be found.

But he pointed out that Arecibo was the only observatory in the world sensitive enough for the task.

“If we measure [Apophis] in 2013, there is something like a 95% chance that we’ll be able to prove that it can’t hit the Earth in 2036,” he explained.

Such threats present challenges for policymakers; while the chances of an asteroid strike might be small, the effects would be devastating.

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This story made us add yet another category: Dumb Humans

We are sure there will be more to add to this category over time  🙂


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