NASA and other space agencies are actively engaged in developing planetary defense systems, such as the DART spacecraft that collided with an asteroid in the previous year. However, safeguarding against asteroids is just one aspect of the task at hand. Equally important is our ability to identify all potential asteroids that may approach Earth. In a recent update, NASA has shared staggering statistics regarding the number of near-Earth asteroids discovered as of June 2023.
According to a newly released infographic by NASA, in collaboration with astronomers worldwide, an astounding 32,103 near-Earth objects have been identified. Among these, over 10,000 are estimated to have a diameter exceeding 140 meters. The magnitude of these numbers is truly remarkable, highlighting the scale of the ongoing effort to monitor and assess potential threats from space.
Despite the significant number of near-Earth asteroids already discovered, NASA believes there are still numerous undetected ones out there, with an estimated minimum of 15,000 NEOs measuring 140 meters in diameter. In the past 30 days alone, seven of these NEOs have passed by Earth at a closer distance than the Moon—an exceptionally close encounter.
It’s worth noting that the figures for near-Earth asteroids also encompass other celestial bodies like comets that approach our planet. Among the discovered NEOs, 852 have a diameter exceeding 1 kilometer. NASA anticipates finding approximately 50 more asteroids of this size, bringing the total count to over 900.
The data presented in the infographic is up-to-date as of May 31, 2023. It is essential to understand that not all near-Earth objects pose a threat to our planet. Astronomers classify any object that comes within 30 million miles as a NEO, which still encompasses a vast range. As astronomers continue to explore the cosmos and search for more NEOs, these numbers are expected to rise.