Happy first-ever Asteroid Day!

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

Astronomers and space enthusiasts will be looking to the skies in search of near-Earth objects as part of the first-ever Asteroid Day on Tuesday – an event described by the organizers as a global awareness movement to learn how to protect ourselves from falling planetoids.

According to the event’s website, June 30 was chosen to be Asteroid Day because it was the day of the largest asteroid impact in recent Earth history, the 1908 Siberian Tunguska event. The goal of the event, the organizers told NBC News, is to increase awareness of potential asteroid-related threats and to focus on what to do should we face the threat of another massive impact.

Tom Jones, a planetary scientist and former NASA astronaut who’s an adviser for Asteroid Day, explained that nuclear-scale meteor blast which took place in Chelyabinsk, Russia back in 2013 was a wake-up call of sorts – a “crystallizing event for people who hadn’t been paying attention to the asteroid threat,” as he told NBC.

“Chelyabinsk isn’t in the news cycle anymore, but I don’t think the public has lost sight of the idea that we are repeatedly struck by asteroids,” he added. “The goal of Asteroid Day is to translate that awareness from Chelyabinsk… into ongoing support for government efforts and volunteer efforts to find asteroids… and have a plan on the shelf to do something about them.”

A petition calling for expanded anti-asteroid efforts

At the heart of Asteroid Day is an online petition, the 100X Declaration, which is calling for the world’s governments to “safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth” through the creation of programs to protect the planet from potential asteroid impacts.

“Unlike other natural disasters, we know how to prevent asteroid impacts,” the petition reads. “There are a million asteroids in our solar system that have the potential to strike Earth and destroy a city, yet we have discovered less than 10,000 – just one percent – of them. We have the technology to change that situation.”

They are calling for governments and space programs to use that technology to better detect and track Near-Earth objects that threaten populated parts of the planet; to increase efforts to discover and monitor close asteroids by 100-found, to 100,000 per year by 2025; and to adopt Asteroid Day as an official global holiday to further heighten awareness of the asteroid impact issue.

The petition has been signed by the likes of Bill Nye, science educator and head of the Planetary Society; astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May; Carolyn Shoemaker, astronomer and co-discoverer of the Shoemaker-Levy comet; Brian Cox, particle physics professor at the University of Manchester; and former NASA Director of Operations in Russia Chris Hadfield.

A full list of Asteroid Day events can be viewed online at the event’s website.


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