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California Calling: Las Cumbres Observatory Event

Las Cumbres Observatory AD Event

It’s now almost three months since Asteroid Day 2017, yet there are still fascinating stories from various regional events reaching us. Today, I would like to share one particular one from the Asteroid Day Event at Las Cumbres Observatory in Goleta, California. The observatory held an open house in the evening where visitors could meet scientists and engineers, tour the facility, and get their hands on a piece of a real asteroid – literally! They managed to attract between 150 and 200 people, some of them coming from as far as 2 hours away. Serious dedication there! Among the visitors was British record-setting balloonist and 100x signee Julian Nott who lives in nearby Santa Barbara. Julian Nott is currently actively involved in developing balloons for exploration flights at solar system destinations, particularly Venus and the Saturn moon Titan, as “Flying Mars Rovers”.

Las Cumbres Observatory Asteroid Cake

Open House at Las Cumbres Observatory

The entire open house took place in a casual atmosphere: While watching presentations on the Las Cumbres Observatory and its work in the lobby, visitors were served food and beverages, the night being topped of with a very spacial asteroid cake that proved highly popular. (Asteroid Day Global can confirm the popularity of asteroid cakes – the one we served to the panelists of the Asteroid Day LIVE broadcast was met with equal amazement, some astronauts even cheekily trying to break of pieces before the first slices were cut! Just in case you are still looking for ideas for your Asteroid Day 2018 event – asteroid cake might be the way of the future!)
After people were acquainted with the facility, it was time to move on to the scientific part of the evening. The observatory’s director, Dr. Todd Boroson, gave an introduction to their work and research before he, the observatory’s Director of Engineering Dr. Eric Saunders, and NEO scientist Dr. Tim Lister headed off with three tour groups. Visitors could then inspect the observatory’s domed 1-meter telescope, learn about asteroids in another talk in Las Cumbres’ conference room, and take a photo opportunity in a “photobooth” set up just for this occasion with 2 meteorites from Australia and Texas.

(Video: Dr. Tim Lister speaking on the subject of Near-Earth Objects)

Julian Nott at Las Cumbres Observatory
100X Signee Julian Nott at Las Cumbres Observatory with one of the meteorites

Guessing Asteroids

A highlight of the entire event certainly was the meteorite competition. In it, participants could guess the weight of each of the Australian and Texan meteorite, the closest guesses winning a Las Cumbres Observatory t-shirt. Overall, 111 guesses were submitted, the winners coming very close to the actual weight: For the Australian meteorite at 29.3 lbs, the winner guessed it at 28.3 lbs, while the best Texan guess almost got a perfect score, guessing it at only 0.2 lbs less than its actual 13.4 lbs. Asteroid Day Global certainly applauds that feat! But even for those who didn’t win, being able to hold a real meteorite in their own hands was a very special experience for them. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to touch a piece of rock that is several thousands of years old and travelled millions of miles through space before ending its journey here on Earth.

At the end of the official programme, visitors were free to roam the observatory, talk to the staff and ask questions. One visitor even brought a rock that his father had given him that they believed was a piece of an actual asteroid.

Best Practice

One aspect of the Las Cumbres Observatory Asteroid Day event can certainly easily be implemented as a best practice for other Asteroid Day event organisers: Visitors could read about the different speakers’ bios on the observatory’s website to prepare for the event and were asked to sign up for a newsletter. This allowed the organisers to e-mail them follow-up information about the evening in its aftermath and advertise other, similar events that might be of interest. Thus, Asteroid Day also worked to build a network of people interested in science and space that the observatory can rely on to further promote its own activities beyond Asteroid Day.

There you have it! Reading about one of the events taking place in California should have certainly given you an idea for your own Asteroid Day event in 2018. More ideas and inspirations can be found in our Event Guide section. We’ve collected a few stories from other events as well: Copenhagen, Malmö, Santiago de Chile, and London. If this has gotten you interested, don’t forget to register you own Asteroid Day event for next year here!

Additional photos of the Las Cumbres Observatory Asteroid Day event can be found on their facebook page.

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Denmark Calling: What’s in a name?

Runde Taarn

As stories from various regional Asteroid Day events reach us here at Asteroid Day HQ, we decided to share a couple of interesting ones with you! First off, we have Denmark.

Today, I would like to highlight a small, but rather fun fact from Jordi Steen Forteza, the regional coordinator of Asteroid Day Denmark in Copenhagen. Jordi was involved in the organisation of 2 different events, the first one as early as 2nd March, 2017 at the observatory on top of the Runde Taarn in Copenhagen, a talk about “Asteroids, Impact Threats, and the Potential Applications of Asteroids”. On 30th June, 2017, when Asteroid Day was upon us, Katrine Rasmussen and Tina Ibsen gathered 76 attendees at the Tycho Brahe Planetarium for a presentation and Astronomical Friday Night Bar Quiz that they organised. The event dealt with asteroids and conspiracy theories under the title of “Asteroid Facts vs. Alternative Facts”.
Jordi’s second event, also on 30th June, 2017 took place at Copenhagen’s Geological Museum and was organised by the SNU (Selskabet for Naturlærens Udbredelse), the Danish Association for the Advancement of Natural Sciences. The event was lead by Danish planetary scientist Dr. Line Drube and amateur astronomer Jordi Steen Forteza. But its 100 participants almost didn’t get to take part in the three talks and guided tour of the largest meteorite exhibition in Denmark. The event came to be due to a failed asteroid naming attempt a few months prior!

How a misnamed asteroid lead to Asteroid Day Denmark

Here’s the short story behind it:

This year’s Asteroid Day event at the Geological Museum, would probably never have happened without an asteroid naming attempt, that was cancelled!

It was late March 2017 and Jordi was thinking about naming an asteroid. The asteroid in question
was one that he had helped discover during his time as a very active amateur astronomer, back in
Mallorca in 2003. After some time thinking about it, he finally decided the naming should honour the
Danish asteroid scientist Dr. Line Drube, hoping that it might also attract attention towards Asteroid Day
in Denmark. However, after starting the naming process he received a message from a senior scientist at
the Planetary Research Institute at the DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, the German space agency), who kindly asked Jordi to withdraw the proposal, as he and some colleagues wanted to be the ones to surprise her with an asteroid, and they had already also started the naming process.

But the story has a happy ending: In May 2017 the 3 km large asteroid (11262 Drube) was announced, and Line learned that not only one group, but two had been in the process of trying to name an asteroid for her. She felt lucky and flattered to hear this, and decided to thank Jordi for his attempt by offering to organise an Asteroid Day event with him later that year, using her network to do sp. So all of this was due to the result of a “failed” naming attempt.

Asteroid Day Denmark
From left to right: Dr. Line Drube of the DLR, Dr. Morten Bo Madsen from the Niels Bohr Institute, and Jordi Forteza from Asteroid Day Denmark to the right, after an evening of lectures and guided tours.

We for one are glad that Line got an asteroid named after her in the end after all and would like to thank her, Jordi and all of the other people involved in Asteroid Day Denmark for a job well done!

Tusind tak!

If you’d like to organise your own Asteroid Day Event next year (after all, as of today, Asteroid Day 2018 is only 330 days away!), please do so by registering it on our Events page. There, you’ll also find resources and all the information needed to launch your own event. And we guarantee that you won’t have to first discover and attempt to name an asteroid in order to do so.

Other, previous regional stories include Asteroid Day Chile, Sweden, and Mexico!

And speaking of naming asteroids, this does seem like a tricky endeavour. Not unlike Jordi, Asteroid Day supporter Matt Dawson has a similar story of his own to share: This July he realised that an asteroid was named after him as well – but already almost 20 years ago. Read his full story in Luxembourg’s English-language Delano magazine!

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London Calling!

Imperial College London

Debbie Lewis, one of the experts of the Asteroid Day Expert Panel (ADXP), has been involved in Asteroid Day since the beginning. Deeply committed to the cause, she is the driving force behind the organisation of an Asteroid Day UK event at the Imperial College in London.

London Programme

Asteroid Day at the Imperial College will kick off at 10 AM BST.

10.15 AM – Taking the Hit

After a short introduction by Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space, Debbie Lewis will take the stage with a presentation title on the need for effective civil protection strategies to better respond to asteroid impacts.

10.50 AM – Asteroid Post Discovery Information  For Hazard Mitigation

Clemens Rumpf gives a talk on what sets the asteroid threat apart from other disasters: Its predictability and preventability. After an asteroid is discovered, information on it can help to minimise and mitigate its threat.

11.25 AM – AIDA – The First Asteroid Impact Mitigation Test Mission?

Listen to Simon Green talk about the joint NASA/ESA mission AIDA projected to test a kinetic impactor in 2022. Learn all you need to know about spacecraft used, the mission status, motivation behind it, and its importance for planetary defence.

12.00 PM – “We’re All Going to Die!”

Jerry Stone on the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and what humanity can do to escape the same fate.

2.00 PM – Dr. Brian May’s Astro Stereo Photography – Illustrated with full screen 3D Projection

After a lunch break, Denis Pellerin takes over, presenting an annotated stereoscopic picture gallery of astronomical 3-D, using a new full screen 3-D projection system. The presentation features images from the earliest lunar stereos to the most recent data from NASA and ESA mission.

2.35 PM – Amateurs and NEO Follow Up

Amateurs astronomers have been essential to confirm observations and measurements of asteroid orbits. Peter Birtwhistle explains what ever-improving professional surveys and technological advances mean for today’s amateurs.

3.10 PM – Spaceguard Centre – National Near-Earth Object Information Centre

Jonathan Tate will focus on UK-specific aspects of NEO information and observation. While Spaceguard UK and the Spaceguard Centre are established actors in the field of asteroid mitigation nowadays, it took a long political battle to get there.

3.45 PM – How to Survive an Asteroid Impact Event

Prof. Lewis Dartnell gives a lecture on the societal effects of an asteroid impact. How would society rebuild in the aftermath and what role would science play in preventing humankind from falling back into the Dark Ages?

After a Plenary Session at 4.20 PM, the Imperial College event finishes at 5.00 PM.

For more information on the speakers and individual programme points of Asteroid Day UK at the Imperial College, please have a look at this document detailing the event and its outline.

 

The event will take place at the Imperial College, London on Friday, June 30th from 10 AM – 5 PM BST, at the following address:

Lecture Theatre 1
Blackett Laboratory, Physics
Prince Consort Road
Kensington, London, SW7 2AZ

If you’re outside of the UK and would still love to attend an Asteroid Day event, please consult our Events section and map for more information on events near you!

If no event is taking place in your vicinity, why not tune in to Asteroid Day LIVE on June 30th? Find all the related information below:

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Mexico Calling

Andrés Eloy Martínez Rojas

Over the course of the next weeks we are planning on highlighting some of the people involved in Asteroid Day, from independent international organisers, experts on asteroids, to key participants in our live broadcast from Luxembourg on June 30.

Today, we are kicking off with Andrés Eloy Martínez Rojas, a Mexican astronomer and regional coordinator of Asteroid Day Mexico. Yesterday, he spoke to Mexican newspaper La Jornada about his involvement in the global event and the search for near-earth objects in Mexico.

Involvement in Mexican Legislation

Andrés Martínez has been a strong advocate of space threats in his country’s civil defense plan. In 2013, he took the lead on proposing a legislative project that treats space hazards as another, new type of natural disaster. His initiative was passed into Mexican law in 2014, establishing a plan of action to monitor solar activity and detect solar flares that could cause communication problems or knock out the entire electric grid. The new law set up measures to safeguard telecommunications systems, public safety and supply lines in an emergency. The same year, Andrés Martínez founded SCiESMEX, the Mexican space weather service, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico to observe such phenomena and operate an early warning system.

Being prepared

But Andrés Martínez does not believe in fear mongering. To him, planetary defense is about preparedness, treating impacts just like any other natural disaster: “It’s not about causing irrational panic. Fortunately, asteroid and meteoroid impacts don’t occur frequently.” Governments should nevertheless use our technological capacities to detect and track these objects, and eventually develop capabilities to deflect them to avoid future disasters, he told the newspaper. “This could be the biggest achievement of humankind.” Explaining why Mexico’s civil defense law (Ley General de Protección Civil) he worked on is close to his heart, Andrés Martínez stated that in a Mexican context an impact of a comparatively small Tunguska-sized meteoroid in the Zócalo main square in Mexico City, would affect an area of 10 km in all directions. “We need to be prepared for this. In many countries there are response protocols for these cases. Mexico only created the ‘astronomical risk’ category in their civil defense plan last year. Through its geophysical institute, the National Autonomous University of Mexico has installed cameras all across the country to keep an eye on meteoroids crossing the sky.”

Public participation

The astronomer also pointed out that anyone interested can take part in monitoring space, all they need is a medium-sized telescope with an 8 cm aperture, and a lot of patience. “Robotic telescopes search the sky for asteroids autonomously already. Unfortunately, due to their price of more than 40 million pesos (1,949,572 euros or 2,128,351 US dollars) they are not accessible to the majority of the population. Therefore, I believe that projects like Asteroid Day can help to expand the network of observers in Mexico.”

If you want to learn about Asteroid Day in Mexico or take part in a local event, please visit our dedicated Asteroid Day Mexico page. To read the entire Spanish La Jornada article about Andrés Eloy Martínez Rojas, follow this link.

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Update from the Luxembourg Office

Blog

With a little less than two months to go until Asteroid Day 2017 is upon us, preparations in our new headquarters in Luxembourg are up and running. We have some exciting ideas to keep you informed about our progress here and get you in touch with experts. In the weeks leading up to June 30, they will share their knowledge and experience with all of you out there. Make sure to keep checking in on our blog here (or subscribe to our RSS feed) and follow us on our social media channels to be the first to hear about what we have up our sleeves.

For now, we are happy to announce that we simplified the process to access 51° North, The film that inspired Asteroid Day, directed by co-founder Grigorij Richters with music by Dr. Brian May. Event organisers who want to screen it at their local Asteroid Day event can now simply fill out this form on the film page in the Resources section of our website, choose their preferred language and proceed to download it from a dedicated Google Drive. We are also continually looking to get the film’s subtitles translated into new languages to render it accessible for an even larger number of people. If you’re up to the task, let us know and we’ll provide you with the English subtitles file!

And finally, let me quickly introduce myself: I’m Pol, I’m from Luxembourg, and I will be working as Communications Manager for Asteroid Day from now on. I will be bringing you the newest developments and news from our headquarters and am rather excited to have joined the Asteroid Day team here. When I’m not sitting in our Luxembourg office, I love to travel and spend time outdoors, always up to scale mountains wherever I can find them. Having previously worked in Switzerland probably got me hooked on high altitudes – climbing to 3,698 m isn’t quite space yet, but you know, it’s a good first step in the right direction! And while I have been fascinated with space exploration since seeing slides of the first moon landing as a kid, so far I never had the chance to actually work in this area. So naturally, I am quite looking forward to all the projects ahead of us and meeting actual people that ventured beyond our pale blue dot.

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The Story of Asteroid Day Haiti

Peter Rulx Theo

 

Why am I personally supporting Asteroid Day?

I am personally supporting Asteroid Day because I want my people (Haitians) to know the truth about asteroids and what to expect from them. We used to have some natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes but an asteroid impact would be incredibly different and global! Many questions have already come from the community about rocks coming from the sky and the only answer they had for most of the time is from religious interpretations. Despite being an OBGYN, I have also been an astronomy lover since my childhood and have been trained from many books and MOOCs. I have also been involved in Dr. Lisa Harvey-Smith’s Professional Astronomy Research Experience: Magnetic Fields in Space (https://www.lisaharveysmith.com/) and an Astronomy Expert university program in Bircham International University (http://www.bircham.edu/ ).

What am I doing for Asteroid Day?

I plan to have a national conference at the HQ of our association “Société Haïtienne d’Astronomie” (Haitian Astronomical Society). We have purchased some materials from a budget supported by online fundraising. At the moment we are now actively sending out invitations to our event. Our focus is the national media. Meanwhile, we have some regional broadcasts in astronomy where we talk also about asteroids and the Asteroid Day.

What challenges am I facing/have I faced in your preparation of events for Asteroid Day?
The biggest challenge is to have people respond effectively to the invitation. In fact, they are so saturated by local social, economical & political troubles. But we plan to send and to re-send the invitations; our public banners are almost done.

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Posters for Asteroid Day | Designers wanted!

Video thumbnail for youtube video rqkdzoxygtc

Hello,

We are looking for a poster designer to help us create posters for Asteroid Day. Asteroid Day is a UN sanctioned global event held annually on June 30 that promotes and educates the world about asteroids and what we can do to protect our planet.

We are looking for someone to create a poster that event organizers and coordinators can use across 200+ countries to promote their events locally, regionally, and nationally. We will credit you for your work.

If interested please email events@asteroidday.org

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Why are we supporting Asteroid Day?

IMG-20160701-WA0015

This article was written by M. Martínez-Jiménez and J. M. Trigo-Rodríguez from the Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC), Meteorites, Minor bodies and Planetary Science Group, Barcelona. J. M. Trigo-Rodríguez is an Asteroid Day supporter and organiser of the Asteroid Day Premier event in Barcelona, Spain.

 

IT IS ABOUT POPULARIZING ASTEROID SCIENCE AND IMPACT HAZARD

Asteroid Day is a global movement where people from around the world come together to give awareness of asteroids to the society. Thus, the aim of this annual ephemerid is to learn about asteroids, from the threat they represent to our Planet, to the study of these amazing bodies that can provide the clues for understanding the Solar System origin and evolution. Besides, recently, there is another branch that starts to be considered, which is mining mineral resources in asteroids, for example Platinum Group Elements (PGEs), as well as water for human life supply in space exploration. From the Institute of Space Sciences (IEEC-CSIC) in Barcelona we are dealing with the study of the physico-chemical properties and the dynamic origin of meteorites, our available asteroid-forming materials, to contribute to answer some of the open questions on these issues.

Our implication in the Asteroid Day movement started in 2015 with our involvement in the organization of a Barcelona double event: a scientific workshop dealing with hot topics in impact hazard, and an outreach talk given by Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque. These activities took place respectively in our research institute and in the Parc de Recerca de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). As a significant product of the 2015 scientific encounter, this year Springer will release a proceedings book titled “Assessment and Mitigation of Asteroid Impact Hazards” edited by J.M. Trigo-Rodríguez, Maria Gritsevich and Herbert Palme and to be published in the Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings Series.

Why are we committed to celebrate this event every June 30th? Simply because we want to put a key reminder in our agenda: the anniversary of the Tunguska event, the largest contemporary asteroid impact recorded so far, which occurred in 1908 and devastated over 2000 km 2 of Siberian taiga. We are exposed to asteroid hazard as many other atmospheric explosions have been recorded since then. We now probably care more about this hazard because we start to be conscious: instrument sensitivity to detect them has improved considerably over the last decades, using different techniques. Also our ability to detect them has significantly increased. Telescopic surveys have achieved a quite complete database of Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) up to sizes larger than about 300 meters, and are constraining the population of bodies that suppose a direct risk to us. So far 1,706 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) have been discovered, being asteroids experiencing close approaches to the Earth and hence that are potentially threatening our planet. Unfortunately, this number only represents a small percent of the total number of objects that can strike Earth. Indeed, Earth-based surveys are not able to detect most bodies in determinate entry geometries (e.g. towards the direction of the Sun), and we still miss part of the high-inclination population. These are factors causing that some asteroids or extinct comets experiencing close approaches to Earth are discovered with just few weeks of margin. All these are reasons to claim for a dedicated infrared space telescope that can deal with the challenging properties of these bodies: low reflectivity, and larger impact velocities. In front of this, Asteroid Day claims people from all over the world to discuss and debate this important issue in order to rise the awareness about asteroid impacts.

With events like Chelyabinsk (~20 m diameter, 15th February 2013), where more than 1200 people were injured, it was demonstrated the significant power of a relatively small asteroid impact, and the big danger associated with its shock wave. Although statistics about asteroid size impacts in specific time scales are not clear since we have a short historic memory, it is expected that a Chelyabinsk-class impact happens few times per century.

Our research group has also identified that some PHAs can be sources of meter-sized projectiles, probably as consequence of the disruption of their weak structures that are characteristic of rubble piles during close approaches to the terrestrial planets. The success of the Stardust NASA mission to sample materials from comet 81P/Wild 2 promoted the development of space missions addressed to the exploration and sample return of minor bodies. The golden age of the exploration of asteroids has probably started with Hayabusa (JAXA) mission to asteroid 25143 Itokawa who was not only a great scientific achievement to understand rubble piles, but which also included successful sample return. That specific goal, bringing back to Earth pristine materials from undifferentiated bodies, will concentrate the efforts of the forthcoming Hayabusa 2 (JAXA) and OSIRIS-REx (NASA) missions addressed respectively to asteroids 162173 Ryugu and 101955 Bennu. Hopefully NASA and ESA will join soon efforts in the AIDA joint mission to binary asteroid 65803 Didymos. Such joint mission will test for the first time the kinetic impact techniques needed to deflect future asteroid close encounters with the Earth. Consequently, there is no doubt that we are living a new era in the exploration of Solar System minor bodies, and we want take part of this international movement. This year our contribution wants to popularize the AIDA mission in Spain, and our Barcelona event will include a round table about asteroid deflection techniques, and an open debate with the public after the invited conference describing AIDA by Michael Küppers (ESAC). We encourage you to join AD events worldwide for being part of this unique movement to save us from our grazing rocky neighbors. Really, it is time for action!

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DISCOVERY SCIENCE

sciencechannel-hor

Asteroid Day media partner, Discovery Science, the only global network dedicated entirely to the wonders of science, launched “Countdown to Asteroid Day” aired globally in the lead up to June 30 events. On Asteroid Day, June 30th, Discovery Science is dedicating the entire day to asteroid programming, leading with two one-hour premiere titles: Man Vs. Asteroid: An Asteroid Day Special, and The Man Who Tweeted Earth, a profile of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. Discovery Science reaches 72 million US households and 97 million households  internationally across 159 countries and territories.

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