In the mood for a modest serving of cosmic dread? Take a run through this new simulation of all the asteroids, comets, and other assorted Near Earth Objects (NEOs) discovered by the NEOWISE space telescope over the past two years.
As unnerving as it is to watch all those potential mass extinction events swirling precariously near Earth, it's also comforting that programs like NEOWISE are working to catalogue as many space rocks as possible. Since December 2013, the telescope has characterized 439 NEOs, 72 of which were new discoveries.
Moreover, in the last year's survey alone, eight objects imaged by NEOWISE were deemed potentially hazardous to Earth, based on their orbits and size. There's no firm plan on what would happen if one of these space bullets was confirmed to be on a collision path with our world, but odds are that such a revelation might light enough of a fire under humanity's collective ass to figure out a response.
Of course, planetary defense is only possible if scientists get the jump on any offending asteroids before they faceplant all over our civilization. As it embarks on its third year, NEOWISE continues this important search, in the hopes that we will not end up going the way of dinosaurs.