Deadly asteroids aren’t just the stuff of sci-fi flicks and dinosaur extinction theories–they’re also a very real threat. In fact, UH scientists, using a specialized telescope on Haleakala, have spotted one that could be on a collision course with Earth. Don’t start building your bomb shelter just yet, though — “2010 ST3” won’t pose a threat until 2098, and then it’ll likely burn up in the atmosphere before it does any damage.
Still, the asteroid — which is 150-feet in diameter — has been classified a “potentially hazardous object.” And even if this particular space rock doesn’t make a deep impact, it demonstrates the importance of monitoring the skies and the unique capabilities of Hawaii’s observation facilities. UH Manoa’s Dr. Robert Jedicke called the Pan-STARRS PS1 telescope that allowed scientists to view the asteroid from more than 20 million miles away “the most sensitive system” in the world. “I congratulate the Pan-STARRS project on this discovery,” added Dr. Timothy Spahr of the Massachusetts-based Minor Planet Center. “It is proof that the PS1 telescope…is capable of finding [things] that no one else has found.”
So what happens when Pan-STARRS discovers “potentially hazardous objects”? (Other than back-patting press releases.) According to UH, “NASA experts believe that, given several years’ warning, it should be possible to organize a space mission to deflect any asteroid that is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth.” Cool.