Hawaii project that tracks 'city-killing' asteroids to add telescopes

Hawaii project that tracks 'city-killing' asteroids to add telescopes
A UH project tracks smaller, near-Earth asteroids. (Image: ATLAS)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A University of Hawaii project charged with detecting and tracking "city-killing" asteroids is getting two new telescopes to better cover the whole sky.

ATLAS — the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System — at the UH Institute for Astronomy was first launched in late 2015.

It's currently gathering data from two telescopes, one atop Haleakala and one atop Mauna Loa.

But with about $4 million in new funding from NASA, the project will be able to add two additional telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere to the network.

Aren Heinze, ATLAS postdoctoral researcher, said with two telescopes in each hemisphere the project will be able to cover the whole sky once every two days. ATLAS is hoping to have the two Southern Hemisphere telescopes up and running with the project by 2020.

Since its launch, ATLAS has discovered 171 near-Earth asteroids, 19 potentially hazardous asteroids and 11 comets.

Its major mission: Detect and track smaller asteroids that don't pose a threat to the planet, but could leave behind lots of damage in a city.

ATLAS researchers say monitoring "city-killing" asteroids would give residents an opportunity to evacuate and take other measures to prepare.

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