(ORDO NEWS) — A state-of-the-art asteroid warning system operated by the University of Hawaii can now scan the entire sky around the clock looking for cosmic bodies that potentially threaten Earth.
The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) has now expanded into the Southern Hemisphere, where it previously included only two telescopes from the Northern Hemisphere, located on the Haleakala and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Construction has now been completed and two new telescopes located in South Africa and Chile are already performing scientific operations.
“An asteroid that hits the Earth can come from any direction, so the ATLAS system must scan the entire sky around the clock,” said Tony Tory, a professor at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and the head of the ATLAS project.
These new telescopes are installed at the Sutherland Observatory in South Africa and the El Sauce Observatory in Chile. These sites were chosen not only because they provide access to the southern part of the sky, but also because their time is different from Hawaiian – from these places it is possible to make observations at night when it is daytime in Hawaii.
Now the ATLAS system, which includes four telescopes, is the first sky survey for tracking dangerous asteroids, capable of observing the entire dark sky around the clock. The medium-sized telescopes included in the system can image an area of the sky over 100 areas of the full moon in a single exposure.
The ATLAS system can send warnings of an asteroid with a diameter of 20 meters, which is capable of destroying an entire city, one day before it hits. Since large rocks are easier to detect from afar, ATLAS will warn of a 100-meter asteroid capable of causing destruction at the level of an entire region, three weeks before the impact of the space rock.
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