June 30 2021 — International Asteroid Day [Tunguska — June 30 1908]

“We really need an internationally agreed and coordinated strategy for the development of asteroid litigation technology and very importantly the implementation of procedures for an emergency deflection scenario.”

Alan Harris

June 30 2019 — Asteroid Day (also known as International Asteroid Day) is an annual global event which is held on the anniversary of the Siberian Tunguska event that took place on June 30, 1908, the most harmful known asteroid-related event on Earth in recent history. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“Basically, the only things Armageddon got right are that it’s possible for an asteroid to hit Earth and that what looks like a single asteroid may actually be a group of asteroids bound together gravitationally.”

“Just Nuke ‘Em!” Planetary Defense in the Movies

UPDATE (June 30 2021) — The threat of asteroids or comets is something most people have only seen in movies.

To get a sense of the public’s potential misconceptions about planetary defense, The Planetary Report has taken a look at the two most iconic films in the deadly-rocks-from-space genre: Armageddon and Deep Impact.

In Armageddon, an asteroid the size of Texas is detected only 18 days away from a collision with Earth. NASA’s solution is to send a team of experienced oil drillers to land on the asteroid, drill a deep hole, plant nuclear bombs inside it, and blast it into two halves that will pass safely on either side of Earth. (…)

WHAT IT GOT RIGHT

Basically, the only things Armageddon got right are that it’s possible for an asteroid to hit Earth and that what looks like a single asteroid may actually be a group of asteroids bound together gravitationally.

WHAT IT GOT WRONG

So, so much. The movie confuses asteroids, comets, and meteors. The Russian Mir space station conveniently has artificial gravity. One character gets “space dementia.” The list goes on. But in terms of depicting planetary defense, these aren’t the most important inaccuracies.

The main problem is that the timing of the events depicted is extraordinarily unrealistic. The asteroid is detected only 18 days from impact, and within that time frame, NASA is able to precisely determine its composition, map its surface, calculate exactly how much force would be needed to split it neatly in half with neither half impacting Earth, train oil drillers to operate in space, send spacecraft to intercept the asteroid, and blow it up.

So What?

The inaccuracies highlighted here matter because they convey the idea that one country can more or less independently deal with an impending impact on relatively short notice.

The reality is that humanity’s only chance of avoiding a devastating impact is to find the threat many years in advance, study it extensively, coordinate a global response, prepare multiple strategies for deflection, and carry out these tactics while the object is still very far away. Blowing up an asteroid at the last second is great fodder for Hollywood but isn’t a solid plan for an actual impact threat.

Well said. Very well said… One could argue that the logic equally applies to other major threats such as, for instance, a pandemic.

Tunguska — June 30 1908

This year’s International Asteroid Day marks the 113th anniversary of the largest recorded asteroid impact that took place near the Tunguska River in Russia’s Siberia.

“The only entry of a large meteoroid into Earth’s atmosphere in modern history with firsthand accounts was the Tunguska event…This meteor struck a remote part of Siberia but didn’t quite make it to the ground. Instead, it exploded in the air a few miles up. The force of the explosion was powerful enough to knock over trees in a region hundreds of miles wide…Locally, hundreds of reindeer were killed”. [NASA]

Apophis 99942

Asteroids are rocky remnants left over from the early formation of our Solar System. There are currently 1,097,106 known asteroids.

Discovered in 2004, Apophis was regarded as one of the most dangerous asteroids to our planet.

Initial observations indicated a probability up to 2.7% that it would hit Earth on April 13, 2029.

Close calls in 2029, 2036 and 2068 have now been ruled out… None is expected for at least the next 100 years.

The asteroid — named after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and darkness — made a distant flyby of Earth on March 5 2021, passing within 17 million km (10 million miles) of the planet.

Using the 2021 orbit solution, the impact probability for April 12, 2068 is estimated at 2.6 in a million (1 in 380,000), and 4.5 in a million (1 in 220,000) cumulatively between 2056–2107.

The NASA watch-list of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids includes 1950 DA (23 February 1950), 2010 RF12 (5 September, 2095) and 2012 HG2 (12 February, 2052).

Asteroid 1950 DA has a 0.012% chance of Earth impact. An impact by 2010 RF12 is more likely (4.7%) but its size does not pose a major threat to Earth.

Asteroid 2012 HG2 has the highest number of potential Earth impacts on Nasa’s watch-list. However, like the Tunguska event, it would probably burn up in Earth’s atmosphere because the asteroid is relatively small size.

END of UPDATE

“The ancients were correct in their belief that the heavens and the motion of astronomical bodies affect life on earth – just not in the way they imagined. Sometimes those heavenly bodies run into Earth. This is why we must make it our mission to find asteroids before they find us. The only way we can insure the people and governments remain aware of these long term risks, which cumulatively are serious, is through the public being aware of them.”

Lord Martin Rees

UPDATE (June 30 2020) — On June 30 2020, International Asteroid Day will have everyone looking toward the skies. The holiday was founded after the 2014 release of the film 51 Degrees North, which explores what would happen if an asteroid were to strike London.

The film’s creative team (many of whom are scientists) wanted to raise more awareness about the threat of asteroids to earth, and how we can help protect ourselves. To make that happen, they formed a foundation, and in 2015, they celebrated the world’s first International Asteroid Day.

There are over one million asteroids in space that could potentially strike the earth, but modern scientists have only discovered about one percent of them. To combat this, Asteroid Day’s founders, as well as a host of accomplished scientists, created the 100X Asteroid Declaration.

The declaration aims for scientists to work to increase the rate of asteroid discovery to 100,000 per year within a decade. International Asteroid Day focuses on spreading the word of the declaration and helping fellow Earthlings prepare for a potential asteroid impact. [International Asteroid Day]

“The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming, what’s our excuse?”

Neil de Grasse Tyson

What Happens When An Asteroid Visits Your City — 51 Degrees North

END of UPDATE

“Sixty-six million years ago, a ten kilometer space rock plumeted into the Ucitan Peninsula, causing a prolonged nuclear winter, killing off the Dinosaurs. Today, such a collision would likely end human civilization”

David Eicher

The risk of Global Catastrophes is often overestimated by the main stream media but the danger of an asteroid impact is very real.

Every 1000 years, Earth is struck by a object with diameter larger than 50 meters. Such impact releases a amount of energy similar to the Hiroshima bomb (17 kt TNT).

Asteroid Day was co-founded by filmmaker Grigorij Richters, B612 Foundation COO Danica Remy, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart and Brian May, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist.

Over 200 astronauts, scientists, technologists and artists, including Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Peter Gabriel, Jim Lovell, Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins, Alexei Leonov, Bill Anders, Kip Thorne, Lord Martin Rees, Chris Hadfield, Rusty Schweickart and Brian Cox co-signed the Asteroid Day Declaration.

Day of the Asteroid

Hollywood movies have long thrilled in showing us the catastrophic aftermath of an asteroid making direct impact with our planet. As explored in the compelling documentary Day of the Asteroid, this possibility is far from manufactured fantasy. Our planet has played host to asteroid collisions throughout its history, and it seems inevitable that it will happen again. Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?

The galaxy is a vast battlefield populated and shaped by a countless series of violent impacts and explosions. When these events involve our planet, the results are profound. As detailed in the film, there are currently 175 sites throughout the globe where the remnants of asteroid impact are evident. The resulting craters date back millions of years, and produced explosions with a ferocity over 8000 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Not all of these incidents belong to the ancient past; the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013 indirectly resulted in over a thousand injuries.

In the wake of such forceful impact, global chaos and mass extinction ensued. The common scientific consensus is that a repeat of the kind of impact that eradicated the dinosaur species 65 million years ago is highly unlikely. But Earth does lie in the path of many smaller asteroid structures, and their collision with our planet could spell calamity for sizable portions of our population.

High-powered telescopes employed by NASA and other independent astrological endeavors scan the skies in search of potential threats. Each year, their list of possible culprits grows by thousands, yet they have only accounted for 10% of the asteroids within Earth’s impact range.

Even so, steps are being taken to proactively deter asteroids from making such an impact. As detailed in the film, the European Space Agency (ESA) has joined forces with NASA for the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM). Working in collaboration, these two entities are collecting data and formulating plans for technologies that can change the path of offending asteroids.

These are the kind of “futuristic” missions we’re accustomed to seeing in the movies. Day of the Asteroid enlightens and thrills by showing us the very real work being done to thwart another planetary doomsday scenario.

REFERENCES

Asteroid Day — Wikipedia

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June 30 —  International Asteroid Day

June 30 — International Asteroid Day [2020]

June 30 2021 — International Asteroid Day

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