Airdate: Mar 14, 2013
Scientist: William Brown
Dark Skies - Asteroid Defense
Astronomers are scouring the skies for rogue asteroids headed our way. They say the job is made more difficult by light pollution.
ambience: telescope observatory dome opening
Saving the world It's all in a days work for William Brown and his students at the Colorado State University Pueblo. We'll hear how you can help or hinder their work in a moment. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
"Many students are interested in saving the world by discovering the killer asteroid that might be headed our way. And that is one of the things we have going on here is the search for near earth asteroids."
That's the sound of an observatory telescope moving to a point in the night sky.
"We built this observatory about 3 years ago. It has a 14-foot dome, we have a telescope that's about 22 inches in diameter. We have about 3 ccd cameras that we use for doing a lot of our serious work. These cameras enable us to see very, very dim objects far more easily than we could ever be done with the naked eye. We have other instruments that go on here like spectrometers for measuring and observing the spectra emitted by stars and other celestial objects."
But while Professor Brown and his students have all of this sophisticated equipment for peering into the night sky and detecting these objects, their job is made more difficult by something as simple as your porch light. Light pollution from nearby towns and cities interferes with their search for asteroids, which may be headed our way.
"These near-earth asteroids that we look for are extremely dim and any stray light that happens to scatter out of the atmosphere back into our telescopes just totally obscure these objects that we're searching for."
Many communities have enacted legislation to prevent light pollution and protect their Dark. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.