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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2007, 13:16 GMT
Firm's lens eyes killer asteroids
Asteroid Mathilde Image: Nasa
Thousands of potentially lethal space objects need to be identified
A giant telescope lens made by a Denbighshire firm is helping US scientists monitor rogue asteroids on a collision course with Earth.

The 1.2m (47in) lens made at Technium OpTIC, based at St Asaph, is being installed at the University of Hawaii.

The Nasa-run Pan STARRS project (PANoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System) aims to track objects as small as 300m (330 yards) across.

Images from the lens are recorded by a 1.4 billion-pixel digital camera.

A growing number of scientists are taking seriously the threat posed to the planet by an asteroid collision.

Millions of these near-Earth objects pass through our solar system every year - if only one hit us, we'd have a big problem
John Oliver, Technium OpTIC,

In 2005, NASA was given the task of detecting 90% of near-Earth objects with a size greater than 140m in diameter by the year 2020.

The agency estimates there are about 20,000 undiscovered potentially-threatening asteroids.

The Pan-STARRS project is capable of detecting objects 300m in diameter - large enough to have catastrophic consequences.

John Oliver, of Technium OpTIC, based on St Asaph Business Park, said the research programme in Hawaii contacted them because of a worldwide manufacturing shortfall in the type of lens used.

The Pan STARRS telescope building in Hawaii
The lens is key to the telescope being assembled in Hawaii

He said: "All our tests on the lens showed that it should perform they way they are looking for.

"Millions of these near-Earth objects pass through our solar system every year. If only one hit us, we'd have a big problem."

He said the company had a new machine which enabled them to polish the lenses to the high standard and tolerance Nasa required.

Lembit Opik, MP for Montgomeryshire, has called on the UK government to devise a plan to combat the threat of asteroids.

He welcomed the firm's involvement with the project, adding: "I regard this initiative as part of our global insurance policy against cosmic catastrophe."

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Opik urges asteroids action plan
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What if the asteroid had missed?
13 Mar 07 |  Science/Nature


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