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Managed for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) accurately characterizes the orbits of all known near-Earth objects, predicts their close approaches with Earth, and makes comprehensive impact hazard assessments in support of the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them to within 120 million miles (195 million kilometers) of the Sun, which means they can circulate through the Earth’s orbital neighborhood. Most near-Earth objects are asteroids that range in size from about 10 feet (a few meters) to nearly 25 miles (40 kilometers) across.
The orbit of each object is computed by finding the elliptical path through space that best fits all the available observations, which often span many orbits over many years or decades. As more observations are made, the accuracy of an object's orbit improves dramatically, and it becomes possible to predict where an object will be years or even decades into the future – and whether it could come close to Earth.