- U.S. researchers call their idea a ‘directed energy orbital defence system’
- It could vaporise an asteroid as big as the one which flew past on Friday night in just an hour, they claim
- Researchers call for more ‘proactive’ work on asteroid defences, since ‘duck and cover is not an option’
By DAMIEN GAYLE
Sun-powered lasers could protect Earth from any more asteroids judged to be flying too close, a new study claims.
U.S. researchers have outlined a plan for solar powered space defences which could vaporise an asteroid as big as the one which flew past Earth on Friday night in 60 minutes.
The same system could destroy asteroids 10 times larger in about a year, with evaporation starting at a distance as far away as the Sun, the researchers claim.
After Earth’s close shave with asteroid 2012 DA14 on Friday night – and the unexpected meteorite explosion which injured 1,000 Russians that morning – attention has turned to technology which could be used to defend our planet.
The 130,000 ton, 150ft-wide lump of space rock hurtled past at 17,400mph – eight times as fast as a bullet from a high-powered sniper rifle – making its closest approach at 7.25pm on Friday evening.
If it had struck our planet it would have exploded with one thousand times the force of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
In the run up to the close shave – an event which occurs roughly once every 40 years – astronomers were keen to point out that their calculations showed little chance of asteroid 2012 DA14 actually hitting our planet.
But in the event a similar, or bigger interloper is spotted on a collision – an event thought to happen every 1,200 years or so – academics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, have outlined a plan to destroy it before it can destroy us.
They say their concept, dubbed Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids an exploRation, or DE-STAR, is ‘a realistic means of mitigating potential threats posed to the Earth by asteroids and comets.’
Described as a ‘directed energy orbital defence system’, DE-STAR is designed to harness the vast power of the Sun and convert it into a massive phased array of laser beams.
These can then be aimed at any threatening-looking asteroids to destroy them before they can get too close.