Ask an astrophysicist anything you want about nearby asteroids!

Illustration for article titled Ask an astrophysicist anything you want about nearby asteroids!

Amy Mainzer is an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Lab who builds instruments for space telescopes that allow us to study Earth's nearest neighbors, including asteroids, comets, and stars. She's here today to answer your questions about all the objects whizzing past Earth — and which ones we should be keeping our eyes on.

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Mainzer built the fine guidance sensor for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and she's currently leading NASA's NEOWISE mission to find and characterize asteroids, as well as a proposal to build a more advanced asteroid survey mission, the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) that would find a large fraction of potentially hazardous objects using advanced infrared detectors. In her spare time, she tells us, she enjoys roller disco and Star Trek, preferably together, and talking about science with anyone who will listen.

She'll be joining us from 12:30 - 1:30 (PST). So start asking her questions now about monitoring asteroids, the problems of space trash, and the tech that makes knowing about all this possible.

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Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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DISCUSSION

blackbirdpie
blackbirdpie

Oh god. I have to admit, natural disasters are my biggest fear, with asteroid impact coming in at a clear #1. So I have a million questions, the answer to which will almost certainly leave me even more terrified, but I'm asking anyway.

1. Given that asteroid monitoring isn't as up to scratch financially as it should be, what kind of warning are we likely to get in the event of a real threat to Earth? What's the likelihood that we, as a global community, could come up with a functional response plan within that timeframe?

2. Are there any sites more likely than others for a large impact? I'm guessing that an ocean impact is far more likely just because of how much of Earth's surface is water, but are there any specific areas that are more likely to be hit, for whatever reason?

Please traumatize me!