The European Space Agency has official inaugurated a centre to give early warnings in the event of a dangerous asteroid or meteor on a collision-course with Earth.
The NEO Coordination Centre is designed to strengthen the search for dangerous Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).
The ESA estimates that around 600,000 asteroids are present in our solar system, and that around 10,000 could pose a danger to live on our planet.
In a blog posting about the launch, the ESA notes the "dramatic proof" of the danger that was shown by the recent meteor strike on Chelyabinsk, Russia, which injured about 1,000 people earlier this year.
The new centre will act as a central point for European data on NEOs, which are being established under the ESA's Space Situational Awareness programme.
The ESA said:
"The new centre will support experts in the field by federating new and existing European assets, systems and sensors into a future NEO system. It will support the integration and initial operation of ESA's NEO information distribution network.
"The Centre is also the focus point for scientific studies needed to improve NEO warning services and provide near-realtime data to European and international customers, including scientific bodies, international organisations and decision-makers."
Meanwhile Nasa is also continuing to search for dangerous NEOs, while several private companies are thinking of turning them to our advantage by potentially mining them for water and precious minerals.
Unfortunately, our inadequate defences were revealed at a recent Congressional hearing, when NASA chief Charles Bolden joked that the best hope against a massive asteroid was currently prayer.
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