A new campaign aims to raise awareness of the threat posed by near-Earth asteroids.
The Asteroid Day campaign kicked off its inaugural celebration on Tuesday marking the 107th anniversary of the Tunguska Event. The campaign was formed on Dec. 3, 2014 with the goal of creating a global day of awareness around the threat posed by near-Earth objects.
On June 30, 1908, a near-Earth object impacted the Earth’s atmosphere over the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Siberia with enough force to level 80 million trees over more than 800 square miles. Estimates suggest that it exploded with 1,000 times the energy produced by the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
According to Asteroid Day, there are 1 million asteroids in the solar system that have the potential to impact Earth and destroy a city, however, less than 10,000 of them have been discovered to date, representing just one percent of the threat. Asteroid Day proposes increasing this rate of discovery to 100,000 per year over the course of the next ten years.
The goal of the Asteroid Day campaign is to increase the pace of discovery and tracking of near-Earth objects by a factor of 100. This would rapidly accelerate the detection of potentially hazardous asteroids and help provide time to defend against any asteroids discovered to be on a collision course with Earth.
As a part of the campaign’s 100x declaration, Asteroid Day is calling on governments, private industry and other organizations to “employ available technology to detect and track Near-Earth Asteroids that threaten human populations.” The Asteroid Day campaign is hoping to get 1 million signatures on their 100x declaration.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office has identified 95% of objects greater than 1 km in size. NASA’s NEO Office is currently focused on finding 90% of near-Earth objects larger than 140 meters in size. However, as demonstrated by recent meteor strikes, smaller asteroids often impact Earth’s atmosphere without any warning.
NASA’s NEO Program recently saw its budget doubled to over $40 million in 2014 following the Chelyabinsk meteor that struck without warning over Russia. However, that figure represents less than 0.23 percent of NASA’s fiscal year 2014 budget. The Obama administration requested $50 million dollars for the agency’s NEO Program in 2016. [Read more: One Year Since Chelyabinsk, NASA Ramps Up Asteroid Detection Efforts]
The Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk on Feb. 13, 2013 caused significant damage on the ground, as well as more causing more than 1,000 injuries that were serious enough to warrant medical attention. It was the largest known near-Earth object to enter Earth’s atmosphere since the Tunguska event and served as a wake up call about the threat posed by asteroid impacts.
The Slooh Community Observatory and the Virtual Telescope Project will be hosting live Asteroid Day broadcast to highlight the threat posed by near-Earth objects. The Virtual Telescope Project live stream will begin at 7 p.m. EDT and Slooh’s broadcast will start at 6 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 30.