Asteroid Days – Cité de l’Espace

Since a declaration by the United Nations (UN) in 2016, 30th of June isAsteroid Day or International Asteroid Day. This event, led in particular by scientists and astronauts, seeks to raise awareness among decision-makers and the general public about the risks posed by these objects.

Queens guitarist in the front line

Asteroid Day was opened by astronaut Rusty Schweickart, member of the Apollo 9 mission, director Grig Richters, president of the B612 Foundation Danica Remy and astrophysicist Brian May. You may know the latter for another aspect of his life: he was the famous guitarist the queen of the rock band !
In the 2015 video below, Brian May explained to the British media Guardian the principle of Asteroid Day.

Asteroid Day actually seeks to explain why we must continue unabated efforts to detect asteroids and to think of ways that will allow us in the future to deflect a threatening object if the situation arises. June 30, 2022 International Asteroid Day resulted in several initiatives, including a live video on YouTube, which you can watch below (once completed, it becomes a repeat).

The date of June 30 was chosen because it corresponds to the anniversary of the Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908. It is estimated that a relatively small asteroid a few tens of meters wide on this day disintegrated in the atmosphere between 5 and 10 kilometers altitude. causing an explosion equivalent to 1000 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. The blast destroyed about 2000 km2 of forest!
An example that supports the discourse on Asteroid Day. In fact, almost all of the asteroids of 1 km wide and more have been cataloged and no one is on a collision course at the moment, the idea has spread that the danger is no longer acute. And still…

The logic of prevention is gaining ground

In fact, an asteroid of 1 km and more hitting Earth would signify the end of our civilization. However, it is necessary to know how to look beyond this ultimate threat currently rejected. The B612 Foundation and Asteroid Day explain that there is another insufficiently considered risk, namely smaller asteroids, which current automatic surveillance telescopes will only see too late to allow a reaction. These objects of the class one hundred meters (slightly more or slightly smaller) can cause significant damage in the event of a collision. To make it clear what they are capable of, they have been nicknamed City killers (city killers). And we find the reason for the date of June 30: an event like the one in Tunguska in 1908 over a city or an inhabited area would result in one of the most serious natural disasters humanity has ever suffered.
This is also the subject of IMAX movie Asteroid Hunters 3D offered at the Cité de l’espace in Toulouse (trailer in English below, the film is in French at the Cité de l’espace).

But the film’s approach is not catastrophic. That from Asteroid Day either. On the contrary, the idea is that today we have the means discover asteroids before a crash. The automatic telescopes responsible for this monitoring have also seen an increase in their performance. These include those called NASA’s ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Last Alert System), which at the beginning of the year benefited from two new observation sites to cover the entire sky. ATLAS is specially designed to locate City killers. Finally, several space agencies are working on how we can deflect asteroids. This is the case with NASA’s DART mission. On September 26, a probe will voluntarily hit the small moon of the asteroid Didymos to change its orbit very little (no risk to our planet). The goal is to go from theory to practice. In 2026, the European Space Agency (ESA) HERA probe will be sent to Didymos with the aim of accurately measuring the impact of the impact on DART and completing the process. In addition, ESA is participating in Asteroid Day (video below).

While the logic behind planetary protection has undoubtedly gained ground thanks to more efficient surveillance telescopes and international coordination on the subject, the message of Asteroid Day is that we must not rest on our laurels or lower our guard and continue to look at the firmament.

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