Skip Navigation

Davide Farnocchia

Improving near-Earth asteroid monitoring through data analysis

Davide Farnocchia

Davide Farnocchia, Ph.D. (mathematics, University of Pisa, Italy), is a fellow in the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP), administered by ORAU. He and other researchers in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Near-Earth Objects program use optical, radio and space telescopes to compute dynamical and physical properties of asteroids. Analysis of the resulting data helps scientists better estimate asteroids’ trajectories, predict their future positions and determine the likelihood of their impact on Earth.

Although asteroids that could cause the end of civilization impact the Earth only once every few million years, more than 100 tons of asteroid and comet material impact the Earth every day—fortunately only as dust and small particles, said Farnocchia. In October 2008, however, a 6-9 foot diameter asteroid—roughly the size of a child’s swimming pool—impacted the Earth in Sudan, releasing about one kiloton of energy on impact, which is equivalent to 1,000 metric tons of TNT. According to NASA, it was the first asteroid impact predicted in advance.

“I’ve had the chance to work with some of the most expert professionals in the field,” Farnocchia said about his experience with NPP. “I find it amazing how we can combine our different backgrounds and perspectives to help each other solve problems.”