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Far More Asteroids Have Hit The Earth Than We Thought, Astronauts Say

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Bad news, earthlings. A former NASA scientist says it's mere happenstance that an Armageddon-style asteroid hasn't hit a densely populated area in the last few years.

On Tuesday, the B612 Foundation, which is devoted to preventing the next deep impact, will present data from a nuclear-weapons test warning satellite showing that far more asteroids have hit earth in the past few years than previously thought, the organization announced on its website.

The data, collected from a nuclear missile detection system that picks up large blasts on earth, shows that since 2001, asteroids have caused 26 explosions on the scale of an atomic bomb.

“This data shows that asteroid impacts are NOT rare, but actually 3-10 times more common than we previously thought,” Ed Lu, one of the astronauts working on the project, said in a statement. "The fact that none of these asteroid impacts shown in the video was detected in advance is proof that the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid is blind luck."

The silver lining? Scientists are working to deflect any future space rocks from our planet.

Lu, along with fellow ex-astronauts Tom Jones and Bill Anders, has been attempting to develop a better asteroid early-warning system, the Sentinel Infrared Space Telescope, which they hope will become "the principal means by which nearly all asteroid discoveries will be made." In an interview with Wired, Lu explained that the telescope will work by scanning the sky in infrared, which will allow it to calculate the trajectory and velocity of asteroids.

NASA has made efforts to track asteroids, but they haven't been as aggressive as the B612 scientists would like. In 1998, NASA established the Near-Earth Object Program Office to detect potentially hazardous comets and asteroids. In March, the agency announced a contest for scientists to develop asteroid-detecting algorithms, a year after a meteorite explosion in Russia made international headlines.

You can read more about B612 and its mission from Slate's Phil Plait here.

(h/t Phys.org)

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