NASA issues grim warning asteroids could be approaching Earth totally undetected

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Devastating asteroids have potential to "sneak up" on Earth undetected.

Nasa-funded scientists have found that the way the Earth rotates and orbits the sun means objects darting towards us at night can slip through a network of computerised telescopes.

A “near miss” of a 100 metre asteroid bolting past Earth only 43,000 miles away was enough to rattle the astronomical community in 2019.

Given that it was spotted only 24 hours earlier, the US Congress tasked Nasa with identifying 90% of asteroids bigger than 140 metres which could destroy a large city if it landed.

As part of Nasa's instructions to combat asteroid threats it launched a heavy spaceship last year to smash into the moonlet of a comet to knock it off course, The Telegraph reports.

Netflix's smash hit Don’t Look Up has brought asteroid danger into the mainstream but thankfully Professor Richard Wainscoat, who led the research team at the University of Hawaii, said people “shouldn’t lose sleep” over the dangers.

He added: “In the event that we find something that is going to hit the earth we would like to do something about it.

“It’s not a matter of finding them and sitting there and letting it hit.”

Yet when asteroids hurtle towards Earth from an area of the eastern sky at around 2am, the way the planet spins and orbits can make the soaring objects appear stationary.

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The study published in the journal Icarus states that 50% of impactors approaching Earth from the east will typically undergo periods of slow motion, making them difficult to detect.

The team wrote: "Surveys should take extra care when surveying the sky in this direction, and aggressively follow up new slow-moving objects.”

Professor Wainscoat said it should be possible to update the algorithms to resolve the issue of asteroids appearing to be at a stand still.

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The asteroid known as 2019 OK was Earth's biggest near miss since 1908, that we know of.

Professor Wainscoat said that around 40% of large asteroids heading close to Earth had been catalogued.

He admitted: "We’ve got a way to go. Once we have catalogued more than 90%, the number that can creep up on us from this direction will be small.”

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