In 2002, NASA launched Sentry, a powerful impact prediction system. In under an hour, it could predict a possible collision with a newly discovered asteroid over the next 100 years.
Even though the first version of this system was incredibly powerful and was in operation for almost 20 years, it did have its drawbacks. For example, it did not take into account the Yarkovsky effect, which describes a small force that affects the orbital motion of asteroids and gives it additional acceleration. This force has little effect on the movement of an asteroid in the short term. However, it could change its path over the course of decades and even centuries.
Therefore, scientists had to manually do complex and time-consuming calculations to take this effect into account. From now on, Sentry-II will do it automatically.
NASA explains that telescopes worldwide have already discovered nearly 28,000 near-Earth asteroids. The agency expects to discover even more of them in the coming years.
NASA also unveiled the Eyes on Asteroids website, where all known near-Earth asteroids and comets can be observed as they orbit the Sun. The data is updated twice a day.