Re: Deep Impact

Dan Clemmensen (
Thu, 12 Mar 1998 18:20:12 -0500

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> Hal Finney <> writes:
> > It's entirely possible that a dinosaur killer (which could be considerably
> > smaller than 1997XF11) will appear with virtually no notice. We don't
> > have the ability to constantly monitor space for potential threats.
> But we could have - right now SpaceWatch and similar projects are
> non-funded, but given some reasonable funding it seems likely they
> could map out most of the dangerous NEOs. But few people seems to take
> Tunguska events seriously, so I suppose a city has to be levelled
> before anybody takes notice.
> --
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
> GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

Actually, Spacewatch is funded, but not heavily. It appears to have primary
viewing rights
to its little Kitt Peak 36" telescope. It uses it 20 nights a month. On the
other nights, the moon
is too bright for this purpose. apparently, the only other funded continuous
is NEAR, which runs 6 nights a month on a Air Force "scope in Hawaii. Total
for both projects is less than $1M/year. The projects have mapped about 10% of
space they need to map for good coverage of earth-crossing asteriods, which make
about 90 percent of the threat. Not surprisingly, SpaceWatch has found most of
108 objects regarded as "potentially hazerdous", including 1997XF11. Spacewatch
seems to be a professor and some grad students. NEAR seems to be a professor,
an administrator, and some grad students.

Statitistically, this says to be that there are probably ten more out there that

are at least as dangerous as this one and that could be identified with just a
little bit
of funding.

Amateur astronomers contribute greatly to this effort. The Pros find the rocks
publish their initial position, and the amateurs then track them and refine the
This is why Spacewatch found this puppy in decenber but the news about the
near miss didn't surface until today.

The other 10 percent of the problem are comets coming in from the outer Solar
It will take a lot more observing time and/or bigger scopes to see these guys in
to do anythinbg about them.