The California-based B612 Foundation has released a video displaying the distribution of 26 multi-kiloton asteroid impacts known to have struck the Earth since the year 2000. Many of the impacts – detected by a network of satellites operated by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization – exploded with a force greater than that of the city-leveling bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which had an explosive yield of 15 kilotons.

Our planet orbits the Sun alongside a swarm of asteroids. Most of these celestial wanderers pose no threat to Earth, however one need only observe the cratered face of the Moon to understand that, not only do asteroid impacts take place, but they do so with surprising regularity. In 2013 alone, one asteroid was caught on video striking the surface of the Moon, with another exploding in the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The impact caused only superficial damage, but raised alarming questions as to what precautions we have in place to counter a potential asteroid strike.

The B612 Foundation satellite will will hold a Venus-like orbit (Image: Ball Aerospace)

Founded by astronauts Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart, the B612 Foundation has the sole aim of creating an advance warning system for Earth against the ever-present threat of an impact from outer space. Following a meeting in October 2001 at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, the team were satisfied that whilst the technology existed to manipulate the course of an asteroid thus deflecting it out of harm's way, such techniques would take time to put in place and ultimately to implement. Therefore, Earth required an early warning system.

The B612 Foundation, in conjunction with Ball Aerospace, intends to implement an infrared survey mission, which will catalog 90 percent of all asteroids larger than 140 m (459 ft) within the area of our solar system that may pose a realistic threat to our planet. The mission will run for six and a half years and will involve the commissioning and successful deployment of a Sentinel satellite, which will maintain a Venus-like orbit around the Sun, searching out and following up on asteroids with the potential to strike Earth.

An artist's impression of the Sentinel satellite (Image: Ball Aerospace)

“Mapping the presence of 1000's of near-Earth objects will create a new scientific database and greatly enhance our stewardship of the planet,” states Dr. Scott Hubbard, Architect of the B612 Foundation Program. With the use of infrared imaging equipment mounted aboard the Sentinel satellite, the foundation hopes that the mission will catalog roughly 500,000 near-Earth objects, as the satellite orbits the Sun once every seven months on its mission.

Once the project is complete, it is hoped that the Sentinel catalog will provide decades worth of early warning for potentially hazardous asteroids, allowing organizations such as NASA to develop and execute missions to avert a potentially devastating impact.

The video below displays the location and explosive yield of the 26 asteroids that have struck planet Earth since the year 2000.

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