NASA-backed meteor tracking system on horizon

Published February 16, 2013

| FoxNews.com

In the wake of the meteorite explosion over Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday, a meteor tracking system could be on its way.

KHON in Honolulu reports that a professor at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy is developing what he calls an Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System.

“It struck me that there was this kind of hole, that this imminent impacter risk is real and it comes from very small things," said Dr. John Tonry said to the Fox affiliate. “It's gonna involve small telescopes about the size of a good garbage can, but very wide fields of view and the intent is to basically scan the whole sky a couple times a night and that makes it possible for things to sneak through.”

Tonry’s ATLAS project has also recently received funding to the tune of $5 million from NASA and will be developed to precisely detect when and where a meteorite would hit.

"We can say it will be exactly such and so a position to within a mile and it'll happen at exactly such and such a time within a second," Dr. Tonry said.

The meteorite that streaked across the Russian sky had exploded with the power of an atomic bomb with the sonic blast shattering countless windows and injuring over a 1,000 people.

The massive space rock was estimated to be about 10 tons and 49 feet wide and entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph before shattering into pieces about 18-32 miles above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement on Friday.

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