Rüdiger Jehn, co-manager of near-Earth object activities under ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme, explains why asteroids and other NEOs pose a risk and how Europe is working to contribute to the global asteroid hunt.
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are asteroids or comets of sizes ranging from metres to tens of kilometres that orbit the Sun and whose orbits come close to that of 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.