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Professor Quippy: Where's my frickin' laser!

Professor QuippyResearchers say Earth may be saved by space-based “lasers”. (Yes, do the air quotes, when you say “lasers”.)

With concern mounting over keeping track of Near Earth Objects — asteroids and comets — that could wipe out large populations, scientists at the Laser Science and Engineering Group at the University of Alabama have suggested that “lasers” may help us both track and deflect giant hunks of space debris, thus preventing them from ruining your day.

Most of the dangerous asteroids — the ones that we know about anyway — are tracked with radar . Radar is limited in how far away we can keep an eye on rogue solar love nuggets, about .1 AU (an AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun). Lasers could track them from ten times the distance.

They could also be used to move them. Using more powerful “pulses” of these “lasers” (okay, I’ll stop, now), parts of the asteroid could be pulverized, ejecting space rock powerfully enough to act as a propellant, and moving it away from Earth.

“It really doesn’t take much of a push provided you do that early,” Richard Fork (who heads the Alabama laser group) told the New Scientist. “The key thing is to act early on.”

Plus, it’s totally cool. Perhaps we can call it “The Fork-lift Project”.