Tracker telescope to be launched

The Canadian Space Agency's NEOSSat (the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) is slated for launch aboard India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Photo / CSA
The Canadian Space Agency's NEOSSat (the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) is slated for launch aboard India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Photo / CSA

The first space telescope dedicated to detecting and tracking asteroids, satellites and space debris is set to be launched next week.

The Canadian Space Agency's NEOSSat (the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) is slated for launch aboard India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from Satish Dhawan Space Center, in Sriharikota, India on February 25.

The suitcase-sized NEOSSat will orbit about 800km above the Earth, circling the globe every 100 minutes. The satellite will scan space near the sun to pinpoint asteroids that may one day pass near our planet.

Unlike telescopes on Earth, the NEOSSat will not be limited by the day-night cycle and can operate 24/7.

Hundreds of images from the satellite will be beemed back to the University of Calgary's NEOSSat science operations centre where experts will work to identify potentially hazardous Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids.

The launch of the satellite is timely, following last week's meteor strike in Russia and the passing of an asteroid close to Earth.

Last Friday's meteor impact over the skies of Chelyabinsk, in Russia's Ural mountains, was the largest space object to strike the Earth since the Tunguska event in 1908.

The asteroid 2012 DA14 passed earth only hours later, missing our planet by a mere 27,350km. The 45m-large asteroid, which was unrelated to the earlier meteor, would have been catastrophic had it hit Earth.

Last week's Russian meteor impact may have been spectacular, but a new map shows earth has been peppered by hundreds of space rocks in recent history.

An interactive map charting every known meteorite to strike the Earth since 2300BC has been created the co-founder of data visualisation company CartoDB, Javier de la Torre, using data from the US Meteoritical Society.

It shows meteor strikes on Earth are relatively common in recent history.

Not surprisingly those meteors which landed in the ocean or in remote parts of the world (such as the Amazon and vast stretches of Russia) have not been recorded.

However, the map was missing a meteorite which crashed through the roof of Brenda and Phil Archer's home Ellerslie, Auckland, in 2004, so we've created our own map to include the 1.3kg lump of space rock. Map at the top of this article.

- www.nzherald.co.nz

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