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Planetary Defense

The Planetary Society recognizes the threat that asteroids and comets–known as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs)–represent. While an asteroid strike could have devastating effects, the good news is that an asteroid impact is the only large-scale natural disaster that is, in theory, preventable. We fund innovative projects that refine deflection technology, provide direct financial assistance to astronomers who discover, observe, and track NEOs, and support smart policy solutions in Washington, D.C. and around the world.

We are also committed to educating about the asteroid threat and The Planetary Society's 5 Step Plan to Prevent Asteroid Impact. As a special edition of our Random Space Fact video series, we have produced a series of 6 fun, short videos to introduce you to the asteroid threat and The Planetary Society’s 5 Step Plan. To learn more, you can sign up for our free online course about the threat of asteroid impact and what we can do to prevent it. And teach others about planetary defense with the help of our free outreach toolkit.

You can learn more about what The Planetary Society is doing below. Also, check out NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, who we coordinated with on our videos.

Asteroids and Comets

Is there an asteroid or comet out there that poses a risk to life on Earth? The answer is certainly "yes," but we don't yet know where the next major impactor will come from or when it will crash. The best way to size up the threat and reduce this uncertainty is to search the skies for these crumbs of the solar system, categorizing asteroids and comets using the Torino Scale.

An Asteroid This Way Comes

The Planetary Society / Kim Orr

An Asteroid This Way Comes
What are near-Earth objects and how could they affect us?

Shoemaker NEO Grant Program

The Planetary Society established the Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grant program to award amateur observers, observers in developing countries, and professional astronomers who, with seed funding, can greatly increase their programs' contributions to NEO research. Grant recipients have played critical roles in tracking small asteroids that were discovered by major asteroid survey programs, and providing the crucial follow-up observations to determine precise orbits for these objects.

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Planetary Defense Conference

The Planetary Society is very involved with the IAA Planetary Defense Conference (PDC). Held every 2 years, the event brings together international experts from all aspects of the asteroid threat issue. Attending are experts on finding, tracking, characterizing, and deflecting asteroids, as well as those involved with asteroid missions, and those involved, like The Planetary Society, with educating the public and international leaders.  

The Planetary Society is a primary sponsor of the PDC and Planetary Society Chief Scientist Bruce Betts serves on the organizing committee. We also typically host a public event tied to the conference.  You can watch the May 1, 2019 PDC public event at the University of Maryland featuring Bill Nye, several asteroid threat experts, and NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green, or listen our own Planetary Radio Live portion of the show as host Mat Kaplan interviews asteroid threat experts.

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Laser Bees

We've been working with a team at the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow in Scotland to study a new technique which uses concentrated light to gently move an asteroid – a project we called "Mirror Bees" – using mirrors on several spacecraft swarming around an asteroid to focus sunlight onto a spot on the asteroid. As part of the initial Mirror Bees project, researchers found that lasers are more effective than mirrors and can be used from greater distances. So, now the project is called "Laser Bees."

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Defending Earth

The Planetary Society / Kim Orr

Defending Earth
The Planetary Society's 5-step plan for tackling the asteroid threat.

Blogs about Planetary Defense

Revitalized 0.81m telescope studying properties of NEOs

Bruce Betts • March 31, 2015

Thanks to a new focal reducer and re-aluminized mirror from a Shoemaker NEO grant, a 0.81-meter telescope in Italy is performing astrometric follow-up observations and physical studies of asteroids.

Intro Astronomy Class 7: Near Earth Asteroids and the Jupiter System

Bruce Betts • March 21, 2014

Examine the threat of near Earth asteroids and begin exploring the Jupiter System in this video of class 7 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

Planetary Radio: NEOWISE PI Amy Mainzer

Mat Kaplan • January 01, 2014 • 1

NEOWISE has reawakened to discover many more asteroids and comets. The mission leader thanks the amateur astronomers who follow up on these discoveries.

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