Happy Asteroid Day
June 30th is the anniversary of the Tunguska asteroid impact, and has been declared World Asteroid Day by the UN. Professor Alan Fitzsimmons (Astrophysics Research Centre) has been supporting Asteroid Day taking part in the founding event in 2015. In-person meetings could not take place this year due to the covid-19 pandemic, so he took part in an on-line broadcast for the European Space Agency. He described the Hera mission that is part of mankind’s first experiment in deflecting an asteroid, which is the offspring of a previous mission concept that he helped first propose in 2004! Right now ARC PhD student Dominik Kiersz is helping analyse Earth-based data on the target asteroid, which will allow scientists to better understand the small world they will be visiting.
Part of the process of planetary defence is the discovery of new Near-Earth Asteroids. PDRA Dr. Jamie Robinson in ARC assists with identifying these objects using data from the NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS). Over 23,000 NEAs have been discovered so far by scientists using various telescope, but there are hundreds of thousands still to discover. In a discussion panel hosted by AsteroidDay.org , Alan Fitzsimmons debated how those discovery efforts were doing and what astronomers have got planned in future years to increase he rate of cataloguing.