Rüdiger Jehn, former Planetary Defence Officer under ESA's Space Safety Programme, explains why asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs) pose a risk and how Europe is working to contribute to the global asteroid hunt.
Near-Earth objects are asteroids or comets ranging from metres to tens of kilometres in size, that orbit the Sun and whose path brings them close to Earth’s. Of the more than 600 000 known asteroids in our Solar System, more than 16 000 are NEOs.
NEOs could potentially hit our planet and, depending on their size, produce considerable damage. While the chance of a large object hitting Earth is very small, it would produce a great deal of destruction.