Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System

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The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) is an astronomical survey system for early detection of dangerous asteroids—ones within a few weeks of impacting Earth. The project is being developed at the University of Hawaii with US$5 million funding from NASA.[1]

When deployed in 2015, the system will provide a one-week warning for a 45 metres (150 ft) diameter asteroid, and a three-week warning for a 120 m (390 ft) one.[1] By comparison, the February 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor impact was from an object estimated at 17 m (60 ft). Additionally, ATLAS will look for dwarf planets and supernovae.[1]


The Last Alert part of the system name refers to the fact that smaller asteroids would not be found in time for potential deflection, but that days or weeks of warning would be provided in order to evacuate a target area. According to ATLAS project lead John Tonry, "that's enough time to evacuate the area of people, take measures to protect buildings and other infrastructure, and be alert to a tsunami danger generated by ocean impacts".[2]

Design and Operation[edit]

ATLAS will consist of up to eight small telescopes, each fitted with cameras with resolution of 100 megapixels. The telescopes are to be sited in the Hawaiian Islands, in one or two locations.

The telescopes will scan the visible sky twice a night, more quickly but in less depth than the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS surveying telescope array.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d University of Hawaii at Manoa's Institute for Astronomy (18 February 2013). "ATLAS: The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System". Astronomy Magazine. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  2. ^ Clark, Stuart (18 February 2013). "Asteroids and how to deflect them". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-02-22.