A large-area telescope installed at observatory in Sayan Mountains has started its sky-watching mission. The LAT is expected to operate as an ‘early warning’ tool alerting scientists about space rocks passing in imminent proximity to our planet. The AZT-33VM asteroid seeker is designed to execute rapid sky survey to spot and monitor potentially-dangerous space objects. The scientific instrument has been designed and constructed at LOMO (St. Petersburg) with assistance from Russian Academy of Science (RAS) and Roscosmos space agency.
“This is the first instrument of that kind in Russia, very powerful, capable of detecting remote [space] objects threatening Earth,” Izvestia daily cited Boris Shustov, scientific supervisor at Institute of Astronomy. It takes just 30 seconds for the telescope to get data on any space extraterrestrial object 50 meters in size traveling in space at the distance of 150 million km (1 astronomical unit) away from Earth.
“It means we can spot an object comparable to Tunguska meteorite,” said Shustov, chairing at space threat prevention expert group of RAS. He explained that the fastest possible time such space rock could reach Earth is one month, a “worst case scenario” imaginable. “Usually it takes years, so there is a chance now to discover potentially dangerous bodies a long time before they approach Earth,” Shustov said. The AZT-33VM still needs estimated 500 million rubles (about US$7.5 million) investment to purchase abroad at least 20 photo detectors (matrix) to ‘cover’ the telescope’s entire large collecting surface. Once all detectors installed, the telescope will be…