31/10/2016 11:49 GMT

New NASA Warning System Tells Us When Asteroids Are Flying Towards Earth

Ignorance was bliss.

Instead of letting us bask in eternal ignorance as a giant destructive fireball hurtles towards Earth, NASA’s new warning system is being used to give us advanced notice of our destruction.  

This weekend NASA’s new Scout system, being tested at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, detected an incoming asteroid that was on course to collide with earth.  

RomoloTavani via Getty Images

When the asteroid was first spotted, on the 25 October, its flight-path was determined to intersect with our planet.

But thanks to the innovative Scout system, which works by alerting multiple telescopes to perform follow-up observations and narrow down the rock’s trajectory, they were eventually able to conclude the rock would pass at a safe distance. 

The asteroid, named 2016 UR36, eventually flew past at 3.13am today at a distance of approximately 310,000 miles away.

But it taught us an important lesson. 

The new software has proved that Scout can give us days rather than hours to prepare for ‘Near Earth Objects’ - something that was previously not possible.

Paul Chodas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory told NPR: “When a telescope first finds a moving object, all you know is it’s just a dot, moving on the sky. You have no information about how far away it is. Now the more telescopes you get pointed at an object, the more data you get, and the more you’re sure you are how big it is and which way it’s headed.”

To give some context to the importance of this longer warning window, back in 2013, a 20-metre-wide meteor exploded over Russia without any advance notice.

Now NASA is able to work out which are a real threat to our planet, so then we start to panic.