DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Asteroid probe. Artwork of a space probe orbiting an asteroid. Probes such as this may be deployed if an asteroid is spotted travelling on a trajectory towards Earth. The probe can analyse the size, composition and spin rate which will influence the method of asteroid deflection strategy. For example, if an asteroid made of loosely packed rubble is directly hit with a nuclear weapon, it may separate into hundreds of smaller, but equally dangerous bodies. A collision on Earth would have catastrophic consequences causing massive tsunamis and block sunlight. It is thought that the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was caused by an asteroid impact. Asteroids, comets and other large bodies posing a danger to Earth are known as Near-Earth Objects (NEO).
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