New telescope could help intercept asteroid


by SHELTON GREEN / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheltonG_KVUE

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 8 at 11:49 PM

AUSTIN – The world watched in amazement a month ago when countless cameras caught a meteor barreling into Russian airspace before causing a massive explosion when it landed. The impact leveled building after building and shattered windows miles away from the point of entry. 

Space invaders is one reason U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith (R) Texas was in Austin Friday surveying a scale model of the brand new James Webb Telescope built by NASA. 

The James Webb Telescope is slated to be 100 times more powerful than the present Hubble Telescope. 

Smith, the chairman of the U.S. Science, Space and Technology Committee has his eye on a huge asteroid called "Apophis" which scientists estimate is about the size of three football fields. 

It is believed to get near the Earth in 2029 but it’s the return of Apophis seven years later in 2036, when it will get closer to our planet, which has some trying to figure out what humans can do -- if anything -- to lessen the threat. 

“We have a very real, a very deep connection with space itself. You know the iron in your blood was created inside of a star that exploded as a supernova, so at a very real visceral level we are connected to space,” said Amber Straughn, an astrophysicist with NASA. 

Straughn told KVUE the James Webb Telescope is expected to cost nearly $8 billion, the expenses shared with NASA by the Canadian Space and European Space programs. It’s scheduled to launch in 2018. 

The life-size replica of the James Webb Telescope will be on display at the Long Center until Sunday evening when organizers try to break a record with the largest astronomy class. 

The event at the Long Center starts Sunday at 7 p.m.