European Space Agency's 'Flyeye' Telescope Could Spot Asteroids Before They Destroy Life on Earth

If you want to protect the earth from incoming asteroids, you need to see them coming. As asteroids can come from any direction, you need to be looking every which way at once.

That's where European Space Agency (ESA)'s "Flyeye" telescope comes in. Flies have dozens of tiny lenses that connect to the eye's core, so the stereoscopic image can see from almost all sides of the fly at once. That's why it's so hard to sneak up on them. Scientists from the ESA have taken a note from flies and built a telescope that will make it harder for asteroids to sneak up on us. They have built a "fleyeye" telescope on Mount Mufara in Sicily, which they hope to finish installing in the year 2020, according to Popular Mechanics.

An illustration shows how the European Space Agency's "Flyeye" telescope would see asteroids before they reach earth. ESA/A. Baker

This telescope will put 16 smaller images together, each facing a different part of the sky. As the earth rotates, they can get a somewhat complete view of space. According to a press release from ESA, it should be able to spot any asteroid more than 40 meters across at least three weeks before it hits earth.

Scientists can also calculate the object's trajectory, size and speed to determine when and how it would hit the planet, or if it would pass by as a shooting star.

Asteroids can have devastating impacts on a planet, as we know from the one that killed the non-bird dinosaurs. If such an asteroid were to hit while humans live on the planet, some of us might survive, but there would certainly be widespread destruction. The likelihood of human survival would depend on several factors, including the size of the asteroid, where it hits on the earth, and of course, how long humanity has to prepare.

Luckily, a dangerous asteroid will almost certainly not hit earth any time soon, or at least not within the next century, scientists say. Still, it's useful to be able to see and understand the multitude of asteroids that fly by earth every year.