WASHINGTON, May 31, 2015 — No, this is not about the latest disaster movie. However, an asteroid hitting the earth could be a disaster. Fortunately, for most of the last 60 million years, asteroids have either missed Earth or been relatively small, hitting the surface in remote areas like Siberia.
In order to help us non-astronomers better understand the large masses of ice, rock and space debris hurtling toward us, the first international Asteroid Day will be held on June 30, 2015. This global day of education and awareness about asteroids (and comets, meteorites and old Soviet satellites) will include a series of events to be held worldwide.
The date coincides with the anniversary of the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history—the 1908 asteroid impact at Tunguska, in Siberia.
The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the B612 Foundation and CalAcademy are all hosting activities dedicated to education about asteroids, including films; presentations from scientists, filmmakers and astronauts; and hands-on activities for children.
Regional events have been locally organized in Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain and Turkey, among other locations. Live webcasts from San Francisco, London and other locations will also be available online throughout the day at AsteroidDay.org.
“Asteroids are the only natural disaster we know how to prevent, and protecting our planet, families, and communities is the goal of Asteroid Day,” said Grigorij Richters, president of Films United, Producer of “51 Degrees North” and co-founder of Asteroid Day. “Asteroids teach us about the origins of life, but they also can impact the future of our species and life on Earth.”
The AsteroidDay.org website features activities for the two premiere events in London and San Francisco for the film “51 Degrees North.” The film is about a “futuristic asteroid impact and its human ramifications” and will premiere at London’s Science Museum IMAX Theatre.
Asteroid Day is being promoted by astrophysicist Dr. Brian May, founding member and lead guitarist of the rock band Queen. He has joined Lord Martin Rees, UK astronomer royal; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and astronauts Rusty Schweickart, Ed Lu, and Tom Jones to call for a 100-fold increase in the detection and monitoring of asteroids.
The declaration, which resolves to “solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future,” carries the signature of more than 100 highly respected scientists, physicists, entertainment and business leaders and Nobel laureates from 30 countries.
“The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it becomes that the human race has been living on borrowed time,” remarked May. “Asteroid Day and the 100x Declaration are ways for the public to contribute to bring about an awareness that we can get hit anytime. A city could be wiped out anytime because we just don’t know enough about what’s out there.”
In this video, May explains how he became attracted to the Asteroid Day effort:
“Early warning is the sine qua non of planetary defense,” said Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut, founder of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), and chair of the Asteroid Day Expert Panel. “Time is an issue. At the current rate of discovery of 20-meter NEOs and larger at about 1,000/year, it will take more than 1,000 years to find one million NEOs that potentially threaten Earth. That’s a long time, and even then we’d have reached only 10 percent or so of the Chelyabinsk-size objects that potentially threaten impact. By signing the 100x Declaration, the public will join us in calling for increasing our asteroid discovery rate to 100,000 (or 100x) per year within the next 10 years. We’ve simply got to get at it!”
Founding partners of Asteroid Day include the Association of Space Explorers, B612 Foundation, California Academy of Sciences, the Planetary Society, Natural History Museum of Vienna, Seattle’s Museum of Flight and Starmus. Media partners include Discovery Science, Astronomy Magazine, Astronomy Now and Slooh.
As the premier media partner, Discovery Science is launching “Countdown to Asteroid Day,” a special programming and consumer engagement campaign airing to more than 40 million households across Europe, UK, Middle East and Africa. Beginning 20 June, Discovery Science viewers will be invited to learn more about asteroids, enter a pan-European competition, watch dedicated programming on the channel and hear from some of the champions of Asteroid Day.