The big-name experts behind the U.N.'s Asteroid Day are trying to prevent a potentially devastating natural disaster.
A devastating asteroid impact has been the topic of science fiction, but a whole bunch of real-world scientists think it’s cause for concern. Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Queen guitarist-turned-astrophysicist Brian May are among the hundreds of scientists who’ve shown support for Asteroid Day, an event that was sanctioned by the United Nations in December.
Today, astronomers from around the world hold a press conference to discuss the benefits and threats of asteroids, leading up to the first official U.N. event, which will be held on June 30, the anniversary of the tremendous Tunguska impact in Siberia in 1908. The press conference itself is appropriately timed — just a day before the four-year anniversary of the Chelyabinsk meteor, which made waves in dash-cam videos across the internet and convinced at least one astronomy writer about the potential danger of such a strike. At just 65 feet wide (small in the cosmic scale of things) the meteor’s impact was still powerful enough to injure 1,500 people and damage over 7,000 buildings.
Asteroid Day was founded by filmmaker Grig Richters and Brian May in 2014, with the initial event held a year later. The goal of the event is to raise awareness of the potential for an asteroid impact, while detecting new asteroids and researching ways to deflect ones that are potentially threatening. Last November, the team gathered over 200 signatures from top scientists for “I Support AIM,” a campaign to get funding for the Asteroid Impact Mission.
“We do not have to be concerned about a significant asteroid impacting Earth on the short-middle term, if significant means a body that is capable of global effects,” planetary scientist Patrick Michel told Digital Trends in November. “Most objects larger than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) are known and they don’t case a threat on timescales up to or ability to predict their evolutions (typically 100 years) and we follow them up to expand the prediction to longer terms. The uncertainty is for objects larger than 140 meters (450 feet), capable of regional damages. We only know a small fraction of them, about 15 percent.”
AIM was denied funding by the European Space Agency (ESA) in December.
Today’s press conference will feature top asteroid experts from around the world. Catch the live-stream from 8:30 a.m. ET, or rewatch the event here.