Known near-Earth asteroids reaches 20 000 – and keeps growing!
The number of known near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) reached the round total of 20 000 this week. This family of asteroids whose orbit brings them close to Earth is steadily growing at a pace of roughly 160 new discoveries each month, thanks to the work done by the main asteroid surveys.
It has taken less than six years to double the population of known NEAs, compared to the 115 years it took to discover the first 10 000, starting with Eros in 1898.
Currently, the major contributors to the discovery quest are the NASA funded Pan-STARRS and Catalina sky surveys. ESA will contribute to such discovery effort by putting into action a first Flyeye telescope in 2020, operating from Sicily in Italy. This NEA discovery workhorse will be followed in the near future by a second in the Southern hemisphere. The Flyeye will join this network of survey telescopes in order to help with the discovery of the millions of NEAs that are still waiting to be found.