Asteroid Day Partners

ArticleAsteroid Day PartnersInterview

Dr. Ludovic Ferrière’s Hunt for Impact Craters

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In our continuing reports on Asteroid Day organisers and events, today we are highlighting the work of Dr. Ludovic Ferrière. Ludovic currently works as curator of the rock collection and co-curator of the meteorite collection at the Natural History Museum Vienna in Austria. He became interested in various kinds of rocks at a young age and has since assembled a large collection of more than a 1,000 samples. Later on, at university, his passion for meteorite impact craters was born. A passion that drives his work (and travel destinations!) until today: The avid “impact craters hunter” managed to confirm 3 of the currently 189 recognised impact structures on Earth in the last few years.

Asteroid Day 2017

In the past years, Ludovic took part in different activities with the public at the Museum in Vienna, but this year he will be in Australia attending a meeting on meteorite craters in June, and, thus, won’t able to participate in the activities in Vienna. Nevertheless, he was involved in the planning and programme of this special day in the Museum. On the 30th June itself, he will be on his way to the Wolfe Creek crater in Western Australia.

Asked about why he personally supports Asteroid Day, his answer was simple. Fascinated by asteroids and their (past) collisions with Earth, he wants to get other people excited about this topic and educate the public about previous impacts. He believes it is really important to promote asteroids and especially to raise awareness of what they are, what risks they pose – not only in the past, as in the extinction of the dinosaurs, but also in the future – and what we can do about this. But he also stresses that asteroids can tell us a lot about the universe and that there is a lot to learn from those that have struck Earth in the past. And this is where his passion for impact craters kicks back in.

Fascination with Impact Craters

Naturally, I had to ask him about what fascinates him about impact craters in particular. “Impact craters are very unique geological features that can be seen on almost all the bodies of our solar system, but on Earth they are in most cases hard to spot due to erosion or vegetal cover.” So he hunts for them across the world, “as it is a mix between a Sherlock Holmes investigation and an Indiana Jones adventure. You need to go in the field and look for unusual rocks (e.g. shatter cones). Then back in the lab you have to look at the samples under the microscope to be able to find shocked minerals – the equivalent of DNA or blood in a criminal case with no murderer to be found but the traces of an asteroid…”. To Ludovic, impact craters are great destinations to travel to, reasons to discover remote places and question their origins. “And when you find something, it is fascinating to try to reconstruct the event. First its age, then how big it was, and the effects it had.”

Impact Crater Findings

Luizi Structure in the Congo © Ludovic Ferrière

So what can we learn from impact craters?
“A lot! On other planetary bodies they give us access to rocks that would otherwise not be visible, buried hundreds of kilometres below the surface. They are also used to estimate the age of planetary surfaces!” And in the case of Martian or Lunar meteorites on Earth – pieces of rocks that were ejected from Mars or our Moon following asteroid impacts, eventually landing on Earth as a meteorite of their own –  they “allow us to investigate these rocks for free, with no need for a sample-return mission. On Earth, we can better understand the behaviour of rocks and minerals exposed to high pressures and temperatures by looking at the rocks affected by impacts. They can be used to estimate risks associated with future impacts.

And when asked why he is planning on visiting the Wolfe Creek Crater in particular, Ludovic had a surprisingly simple answer: He was going to be in Australia for the conference mentioned above anyways, and the organisers are taking the participants there. And it’s not just the Wolfe Creek Crater. Ludovic is a man on a mission: “One of my dreams is to visit all impact craters and structures on Earth. In fact all impact craters are of interest as each one is different. The target rocks differ from crater to crater and thus the setting is different. Some are old, other were formed very recently. Different erosion states allow us to see deeper into the crater in some cases.”

Ludovic’s Challenge

Clearly, Ludovic Ferrière uses his passion as an inspiration for his travels around the globe. In fact, every two years, he celebrates his birthday (the 21st October in case you want to get him a present!) at a new impact he hasn’t visited previously. This tradition started in 2013 at the Luizi Crater in the Congo (a structure that Ludovic and his team helped confirm as impact crater in 2011!). In 2015, he spent his birthday at the Jebel Waqf as Suwwan in Jordan. As for the next stop in 2017, he doesn’t have concrete plans yet. But he wants to inspire others to travel to such structures, whether abroad or near to their home, and poses a challenge to fellow asteroid aficionados: Why not travel to one such crater for Asteroid Day on 30th June and send a selfie from the impact crater in to Asteroid Day Global?

As a fan of travel destinations off the beaten path, I can only support this initiative. So what are you waiting for? You have 38 days left to plan your very own crater trip! Send your best photo to pol@asteroidday.org and we’ll publish them right here for the world to see! And if you don’t know where to find the meteorite impact structure closest to you, Ludovic’s website has a useful map available. Go explore!

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ArticleAsteroid Day Partners

The man behind Asteroid Day Italy

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This is an op-ed piece by Asteroid Day Italy Coordinator, astrophysicist and founder of the Virtual Telescope (an official partner) Dr. Gianluca Masi.

My interest in asteroids dates back to 1997. Late that year I started observing them with my own telescope from Ceccano, my hometown in Central Italy. It was love at first sight. Those small dots of light, slowly moving across the sky, captured my imagination to the point they became one of the topics of my astronomical activities. In the following years I discovered a few dozens of them, making my adventure into this field even more exciting. One is also named “Masi”, after me.

At that time I was a student in astrophysics, so my interest in minor planets contaminated also my professional path. I ended up discussing a thesis on a very special class of near-Earth asteroids, the so-called inner-Earth ones, moving inside the orbit of our planet, closer than us to the sun. Later, I earned a PhD in astronomy with a thesis investigating NEOs by photometry, studying their rotational properties.

But research is only part of my scientific job. I spend a lot of my time doing science communication and public outreach in astronomy and I’ve found, over the years, that asteroids are a great topic of interest for the general public. Of course, also for the potential risk of collision they pose to our planet.

Since I started the Virtual Telescope Project (to learn more about this facility visit: www.virtualtelescope.eu) and its many educational activities, I reserved plenty of attention to near-Earth asteroids, showing the most amazing close encounters with the Earth online, in real time (including the epic case of 2012 DA14), helping the community worldwide to discover what they are and what we can really say about them and their potential impact risk.

This is why I welcomed with plenty of excitement the introduction of Asteroid Day in 2015. I joined it, offering an online show through the Virtual Telescope’s platform. I was happy to learn that Asteroid Day was going to be an annual event and for the 2016 edition I contacted Grig Richters (co-founder of Asteroid Day) offering my help and skills to organise and coordinate Asteroid Day in Italy. Based on my past experience, I was convinced that having a coordinator in a given country, with important, reliable connections within the national astronomical community and the media could be a winning factor to support the goals of Asteroid Day at its best. The response from Grig was very enthusiastic and I started working intensively on this project: Asteroid Day Italia.

I contacted several amateur clubs and media to create a coordinated network. The feedback was amazing and a dozen of clubs enthusiastically joined this pioneering effort, serving as a test for the future of Asteroid Day. The Virtual Telescope offered a specific live feed for Asteroid Day Italia, while the involved clubs organised their own events and the final return was rewarding: tens of thousand of people joined either the online or local Asteroid Day Italia events and without this coordinated work they would have entirely missed the international celebration, according to what some of them told me. That is, they learned about Asteroid Day via its Italian promoter. Asteroid Day Italia was mentioned on all the most important media of my Country. After such a great experience, we are looking forward to the next 2017 edition.

Coordinating Asteroid Day in Italy was a privilege for me (being a fan of Asteroid Day since the very beginning) and a truly rewarding experience. I dedicated plenty of time to this effort, as I believe a lot in it. I think this was easy to perceive, contaminating all the involved partners, bringing their own enthusiasm into this. It was some kind of back-and-forth flux of ideas, energy and excitement. Not an easy task, but I’m so happy for the huge return.

I think, after being the first to test this in Italy in close connection with the Asteroid Day Global team, that having national, motivated coordinators would help a lot to spread Asteroid Day goals and support its mission worldwide. Having individuals knowing their own countries, media and communities will make it possible to better fit each special situation with the maximum return.

To succeed as such a coordinator, you must be truly motivated and “contagious” in your enthusiasm. Of course, you must know your national astronomical community and have good connections with the media and constant feedback with the international team. It is a lot of work, but this is also lot of fun. Engaging clubs will enrich further the experience; you must keep their interest alive, also opening your mind to proposals from them: after all, you are organising all this together.

Working on something you feel close to your vision, making possible to it to reach more and more people in your own community can be very, very exciting. It was for me for sure and I wanted to share my experience with you.

I wish to thank Grig for supporting my ideas and my work in Italy for Asteroid Day.

That said, I’m looking forward to Asteroid Day 2017, and you?

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Asteroid Day PartnersAsteroid Day Updates

World Space Week joins forces with Asteroid Day

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We are very excited to join forces with World Space Week and we encourage you to host an event this year between October 4-10.

On October 8, Space Lectures hosts Captain Mark Kelly and NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly at Carleton Community High School in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. Find more World Space Week UK events: http://goo.gl/nO2jkQ

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What is World Space Week?

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. The United Nations General Assembly declared in 1999 that World Space Week will be held each year from October 4-10. These dates commemorate two events:

  • October 4, 1957: Launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, thus opening the way for space exploration
  • October 10, 1967: The signing of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activites of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

 

Find out more about World Space Week, here.

Register an event for World Space Week, here.

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Asteroid Day PartnersVideo

Asteroid Impact Mission: Asteroid touchdown

This video was uploaded by the European Space Agency, an official Asteroid Day partner.

 

The European Space Agency released a new video about their proposed asteroid mission, Asteroid Impact Mission (aka AIM). Head of the mission and Asteroid Day supporter, Ian Carnelli told us: “As studies progress we’re learning more and more about delivering this micro-rover on Didymoon’s surface. We’ll need to fly as close at 200m from its surface, it’s never been done before!! The Rosetta team as well as our guidance and navigation experts at ESA and industry are crunching numbers. They’re doing an amazing job, lots of work still remains as we look at many different approaches and run so-called Monte Carlo analyses to estimate the impact of all the possible little perturbations. The video is intended to provide an idea of what would happen nominally, with realistic bouncing due to the very small gravity environment.”

The video description:

“As part of ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission would come the Agency’s next landing on a small body since Rosetta’s Philae lander reached 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014.

In 2022 the Mascot-2 microlander would be deployed from the main AIM spacecraft to touch down on the approximately 170-m diameter ‘Didymoon’, in orbit around the larger 700-m diameter Didymos asteroid.

The 15 kg Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout-2 (Mascot-2) is building on the heritage of DLR’s Mascot-1 already flying on Japan’s Hayabusa-2. Launched in 2014, the latter will land on asteroid Ryugu in 2018.

Mascot-2 would be deployed from AIM at about 5 cm/s, and remain in contact with its mothership as it falls through a new inter-satellite communications system. Didymoon’s gravity levels will only be a few thousandths of Earth’s, so the landing would be relatively gentle, although multiple bounces may take place before it comes to rest.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) would help AIM to pinpoint its microlander’s resting place from orbit. In case of a landing in a non-illuminated area, a spring-like ‘mobility mechanism’ would let the microlander jump to another location. Onboard GNC ‘guidance navigation and control’ sensors would gather details of the landing both for scientific reasons and to determine the microlander’s orientation for deployment of the solar array to keep it supplied with sufficient power for several weeks of surface operations.

As well as a solar array, AIM would also deploy its low frequency radar LFR instrument, while cameras perform visible and thermal surface imaging. LFR would send radar signals right through the body, to be detected by AIM on Didymoon’s far side, to provide detailed subsurface soundings of an asteroid’s internal structure for the first time ever.

Then Mascot-2 would repeat these measurements after Didymoon has been impacted by the NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) probe, to assess the extent of structural changes induced by this impact event. AIM and DART together are known as the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission.”

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ArticleAsteroid Day PartnersNews

Rosetta’s comet contains ingredients for life

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This article was published by the European Space Agency, an official Asteroid Day partner.

Ingredients regarded as crucial for the origin of life on Earth have been discovered at the comet that ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has been probing for almost two years.

They include the amino acid glycine, which is commonly found in proteins, and phosphorus, a key component of DNA and cell membranes.

Scientists have long debated the important possibility that water and organic molecules were brought by asteroids and comets to the young Earth after it cooled following its formation, providing some of the key building blocks for the emergence of life.

While some comets and asteroids are already known to have water with a composition like that of Earth’s oceans, Rosetta found a significant difference at its comet – fuelling the debate on their role in the origin of Earth’s water.

But new results reveal that comets nevertheless had the potential to deliver ingredients critical to establish life as we know it.

Rosetta’s comet contains ingredients for life
Rosetta’s comet contains ingredients for life

CONTINUE READING

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Asteroid Day Partners

NEOShield-2 has officially launched its “NEOShield-2 Agents” programme!

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Please note: NEOShield-2 is an official Asteroid Day partner.

The project is now calling upon everyone passionate about planetary defence for help in raising public awareness of the asteroid threat, potential mitigation measures, and how the NEOShield-2 project is preparing to protect Earth.

NEOShield-2 will be training space enthusiasts and professionals alike to enable them to deliver lectures and hold events Europe-wide and beyond.

Want to volunteer? Check out the NEOShield-2 website for more information!

http://www.neoshield.net/play-learn/neoshield-2-agents/

 

Alan Harris NEOShield-2 – Asteroid Day 2016 from Asteroid Day on Vimeo.

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