NELIOTA is an activity initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA), which was recently launched at the National Observatory of Athens. The project aims to count and characterise the number and distribution of near-earth objects (NEOs). NEOs are meteoroids, comets or asteroids found in the neighbourhood of the Earth. Large NEOs can pose a threat to humans, as some have the potential to impact the Earth. The Earth's atmosphere protects us from impacts of small NEOs, most of which burn up as they enter the atmosphere at great speeds. Only the largest ones have the potential to reach the surface. On the Moon, however, the absence of an atmosphere means that all NEOs that enter the Moon’s gravity will impact the surface. Impacts on the non-illuminated side of the Moon cause a visible flash that lasts about 1 second and results in a crater. Scientists are interested in understanding the size distribution and frequency of NEOs in order to assess the threat of small NEO collisions to orbiting spacecraft and to future ESA Moon missions.
More information is available on the project website: http://neliota.astro.noa.gr and in the press release.