Light sensors have provided the first, laboratory-based step towards avoiding a catastrophic asteroid strike in the future.
Scientists at New York City College of Technology are working on a better understanding of how lasers penetrate asteroids.
They are doing this by shining lasers at samples of space rock, using light sensors at the other side to detect how much light makes it through the sample.
With this knowledge, they could create solar collectors capable of focusing the sun's rays on to the surface of an asteroid or comet, creating a jet of material that could steer near-Earth objects further away.
The steering approach is seen as preferable to blowing up asteroids on a collision course with Earth - as was done in the 1998 movie Deep Impact - as the latter technique could lead to the planet being bathed in radiation as fragments of rock burn up in the atmosphere.
Posted by Andre Dixon