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Russian scientists propose launching telescope to observe asteroids from Sun’s side

The Chelyabinsk meteorite has clearly demonstrated that no devices can detect a body approaching from the side of the Sun, according to a scientist

YEKATERINBURG, February 2. /TASS/. Russian scientists have proposed launching a telescope to a distance of 1.5 million kilometers to observe asteroids approaching the Earth from the Sun’s side, Research Head of the Astronomy Institute within the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Shustov told TASS on Thursday.

"The Chelyabinsk event [the Chelyabinsk meteorite] has clearly demonstrated that no devices, either ground-based or near-Earth instruments in low and medium orbits, can detect a body approaching from the side of the Sun," the researcher said at a scientific conference on the physics of outer space being held at the Kourov astronomical observatory in the Urals.

"Optical telescopes are blind in this situation while radio means operate at short distances - several thousand kilometers - whereas we need to detect a dangerous object at a far greater distance to have time to warn the population and indicate the area of its impact and this can be achieved only with the help of a device placed far away from the Earth," he said.

"A group of Russian scientists has proposed placing a telescope of this type in the area of the so-called Lagrange L1 point - the zone located between the Earth and the Sun at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from our planet," the scientist said.

A body placed in this area will follow the Earth with only slight deviations, he said.

"There have long been satellites there but they are mostly looking at the Sun while we have proposed placing a probe that would look at the Earth’s localities because in this case the bodies that will fly from the Sun will be illuminated well. In this situation, a small 30-cm telescope will suffice to spot celestial bodies with a dimeter of over 10 meters and this is quite sufficient for us to give a warning," he added.

This project has been dubbed "SODA" in Russian (the System of Detecting Daylight Asteroids), the scientist said.

"We’ll put forward our proposal to an international panel. In May, a chief conference on planetary protection will be held in Tokyo and the Russian delegation will surely be present there," Shustov said.

The Chelyabinsk meteorite that entered the Earth’s atmosphere on February 15, 2013 at about 07:10 a.m. Moscow time caused a big explosion in the atmosphere at an altitude of 23 kilometers and a fall of numerous fragments onto a large territory in the Chelyabinsk Region in the Urals.

The explosion was observed by hundreds of thousands of people in the Urals and in north Kazakhstan. The celestial body’s largest fragments fell in the vicinity of Lake Chebarkul, 78 kilometers west of Chelyabinsk. The blast wave smashed windows in several hundred thousand residential buildings in Chelyabinsk and its outskirts.

Scientific conference on the physics of outer space

The conference on the physics of outer space has been held for more than 45 years, focusing on the latest achievements in the study of the solar system’s objects, the physics of stars, stellar systems, the interstellar medium, the physics of the Galaxy, the near-Earth space and relativistic objects in the Universe.

This year, the conference will come to a close on February 2 and will be attended by 163 astronomers from Munich, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Rostov-on-Don, the settlement of Nauchny (Crimea) and other cities.