Most of the asteroids that threaten our planet can be seen by NASA -sponsored telescopes. The second place is now for Hungary, a small country of Eastern Europe with at least 10 million people.
This unexpected importance was largely attributed to one man – Krisztián Sárneczky – an astronomer who made headlines last month on seeing a small object. a wide rock that is about to touch the Earth. Sárneczky’s mission, however, was accomplished against many challenges. For one, the sky over Hungary can cover up to 190 days a year, according to and Weather Atlas (opens on new page). It will be about half a year old to look at.
Sárneczky, who has been an asteroid hunter since 2010, is even better then. Since August 2020, when his asteroid reconnaissance project gained the full power of a 1960s 60-cm telescope at Hungary’s Piszkéstető Observatory, its life has been overshadowed by geothermal forecasting.
“I was looking for a near-Earth asteroids Every clean night since August 2020 except for four to five nights around the full moon and a few short summer nights during my vacation, ”he told Space.com in an email. ” Around sunset I turned on the telescope and waited with the neck of the side open for darkness. When the weather is right, I take pictures and edit them quickly. If it’s dark, I’ll wait to see if it’s better. “
Images: Asteroids at depth
From evening to dawn
Every night, from evening until dawn, Sárneczky sat with his telescope, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) away from the capital city of Budapest, looking at the sky in an area of interest. fast runner. When it detects a movement that does not match the settings of a visible rock, it records its position and brightness and sends the data to the Minor Planet Center (opens on new page)The NASA -sponsored hub is responsible for maintaining the asteroids a comet to the Solar system.
“If that happens, I have to stop the usual search process and start looking for something new,” Sárneczky said. “Later I kept looking, but always came back for something new.”
Sárneczky’s effort pays off. He saw only the five stones that had been seen before they hit Earth, which are famous today. asteroid 2022 EB5, which exploded over the North Atlantic in early March two hours after Sárneczky’s capture. He also knew 2022 FD1 only a few days later. This asteroid, which is about 6.5 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) wide, was seen on a plateau with Earth, but the world has passed thousands of miles. And he saw other large rocks from that time.
“So far I have found 70 asteroids near Earth, 661 points a [around] One thousand selected, but not counted, and Jupiter Trojan asteroids, “he said.” It grows farther away from Earth, but at about the distance of the moon, I think I can find rocks 1 to 2 meters. [3.2 to 6.5 feet] wide. “
Small but useful
Since 2000, at the behest of Congress, NASA has increased investment in asteroid observation, funded new telescopes dedicated to the most beautiful parts of the world and increased its availability. found. These strong observers will join the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii, equipped with 1.4 billion? Catalina Sky Survey and Arizona. The goal of these telescopes is to locate 90% of asteroids near Earth that are larger than 460 feet (140 m).
However, despite the power of these devices, small observers, such as Sárneczky’s Piszkéstető, or early aerial observers with telescopes on their backs, are important to the the information system, Peter Vereš, an astronomer at the Minor Planet Center, said. Space.com.
“Telescopes only show the initial state of an unseen object and they don’t have time or their own telescopes to verify it,” Vereš said. “Nothing is seen without following.
Sárneczky’s 2022 EB5 was canceled due to the quick response of an observer in Slovakia about it, Vereš said. If that magician hadn’t been looked at Verification page is close to the world (NEOCP), where the MPC published all the findings, according to Sárneczky’s findings, and if they hadn’t acted quickly, they probably couldn’t have been arrested. In just two hours, the wide boulder hit Earth’s atmosphere over the open and broken sea, his eternal abode is a mystery. The timing is important because astronomers saw five asteroids before they hit Earth (four of which occurred between 2008 and 2019), Vereš said.
“In the case of the Earth impactor 2022 EB5, the focus was fast,” Vereš said. “That was important because there were only two hours between the detection and the result. Luckily the detective continued to look at the object with his telescope and continued to maintain the positions. .
The Minor Planet Center, he added, is constantly working to make it easier for small business groups and amateurs around the world to quickly see what other people are looking at, but also to participate. their own data.
“The observers [and professionals at small regional observatories such as Sárneczky] it’s encouraged, ”Vereš said, more likely to be seen in the center’s bulletin.
Those who escaped
However, solid rocks are not visible on Earth, and they are larger than Sárneczky’s 2022 EB5 that could form on Earth without being seen. In February 2013, an asteroid 66 feet wide (20 m) exploded near the city of Chelyabinsk and Russia. The bomb, which was reported to be 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, injured civilians. 1,200 people and damaged 7,200 homes in the area.
Vereš agreed that while new releases from 2013, a rock like this, or one larger, could be thrown out of the blue.
“The Chelyabinsk meteoroid came from the other side of the universe, so observers can’t see it,” he said. “For that, we need a space telescope that can look closely at the sun, according to the NEO Surveyor (NEOSM) which is planned to start in 2026.”
(That mission would be postponed for two years by the important things described above the amount reported by President Joe Biden last month; that said, Congress should make final decisions about funding.)
Small viewers, big ideas
With NEO Surveyor and other major NASA-supported asteroid-hunting projects currently in the works, the risk of non-controversy such as Chelyabinsk is reduced. On the other hand, it is likely that the list of rocks seen before they arrived will grow.
For Sárneczky, it was no different. There was no time to beat NASA in asteroid sightings, so he would be happy to make Hungary second best.
“I would be happy if Hungary was the second most dangerous country after the United States in seeing asteroids near Earth,” the astronomer said.
NASA has only two non -financial monuments currently in the top ten of the world’s largest asteroid observers: Hungary’s Piszkéstető Observatory and a group of amateurs from the sunnier Chile. .
Last year, Chile was in eighth place while Piszkéstető was in tenth. This year, thanks to Sárneczky’s fine example in March, Hungary is number seven, behind NASA -sponsored telescopes.
“The weather was better in March so I was able to look back at the sky,” Sárneczky said of his new job. “So I had more time to do interesting things.
Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.