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article imageForearming for Armageddon: Asteroid Day 2015

By Robert Myles     Jun 24, 2015 in Science
London - Asteroid Day 2015 is scheduled for June 30 and, with less than a week to go, organizers are putting the final touches on more than 50 events planned worldwide with the aim of raising public awareness about asteroids and their detection.
The day chosen to mark the event, June 30, has been picked with some precision since it was on June 30, 1908 that the Tunguska asteroid blasted into the wastes of Siberia, leaving a trail of destruction.
The Tunguska impact was the largest asteroid in Earth’s recent history, although the Chelyabinsk meteor that created a fireball in Russian skies less than two years ago provided a reminder that such impacts hold the potential to create some serious damage.
As part of Asteroid Day the organizers have opened for public signature what they’ve termed the 100X Declaration, a petition calling for more resources to be devoted for increased detection and tracking of near Earth objects, any one of which could pose an extinction-level threat to life as we know it.
A prominent supporter of Asteroid Day is Queen’s rock guitarist Brian May but wearing his other hat as Dr. Brian May, holder of a PhD is astrophysics.
“Our surveillance of near Earth objects is not good enough, so we are trying to ramp up the rate of detection by 100 times,” commented Dr. May, adding, “Signing the 100X Declaration is a way for the public to contribute to bringing about an awareness that we can protect humanity now and for future generations.”
Almost 40 astronauts and cosmonauts from across the world are backing Asteroid Day. The roll-call of astronautical support includes Pedro Duque (Spain); Alexei Leonov (Russia); Ed Lu (US); Patrick Michel (France); Dorin Prunariu (Romania); Andres Eloy Martinez Rojas (Mexico); Franz Viehboeck (Austria) and Anousheh Ansari (US), the first woman private space traveler.
Perhaps the most celebrated supporter of Asteroid Day among those who’ve journeyed into space is American, Rusty Schweickart, now a 79-year-old veteran of the March 1969, Apollo 9 mission. Apollo 9 was one of the precursor Apollo moon-shots before Apollo 11, crewed by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins made moon-fall in mid-July that year.
Rusty Schweickart is one of the founder members of the B612 Foundation, a private nonprofit foundation based in the US and dedicated to planetary defense against asteroids and other near-Earth object impacts. As well as the B612 Foundation, Asteroid day is also backed by many organizations with an interest in astronomy worldwide including the Association of Space Explorers, Astronauts Without Borders, California Academy of Sciences, The Planetary Society, Natural History Museum of Vienna, Seattle’s Museum of Flight, and Starmus.
“If we can track the trajectories of asteroids and monitor their movement in our solar system, then we can know if they are on a path to impact Earth,” explained Schweickart, “If we find them early enough, we can move them out of Earth’s orbit -- thus preventing any kind of major natural disaster.”
The 100X Declaration calls for a 100-fold increase in the detection and tracking of asteroids or near Earth objects (NEOs) in our solar system. It’s now open for public signature on the Asteroid Day website. Prominent signatories include Brian May, Brian Cox, coincidentally another musician and physicist, Lord Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal, Bill Nye, Peter Gabriel and dozens of astronauts and cosmonauts, including Dr. Helen Patricia Sharman, the first Briton in space.
A full list of signatories can also be found on the Asteroid day website.
Various events marking Asteroid Day 2015, including lectures, films and in-depth science presentations, are scheduled to take place at by museums, research institutes, government agencies and universities in countries as far apart as Australia and Austria and from Brazil to Bulgaria. The event at the Natural Museum of Vienna in Austria is being held in partnership with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Space.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is also supporting the Asteroid Day anniversary, having organized a Twitter discussion #AskESA about #asteroids, and an online Q&A session with ESA experts.
And there’s also a film premiere to mark Asteroid day 2015. “51°North”, produced by German filmmaker and Asteroid Day co-founder Grigorij Richters, and with a musical score by, who else, Dr Brian May, is about a futuristic asteroid impact and how it affects humanity.
“51°North” will premiere at a London Asteroid Day event at the Science Museum IMAX Theatre but the good news for those unable to make it to the premiere is that “51°North” will also be available online at AsteroidDay.org.
More about Asteroid Day, Dr Brian May, Brian may, Asteroids, Near earth objects
 
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