June 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Happy Asteroid Day! A conversation about peaceful, global scientific collaboration


Via: The Guardian

Today is the 3rd annual Asteroid Day, and the first to be presented under the auspices of the United Nations, with live global broadcasts raising awareness about asteroids

Asteroid Day will be streaming for 24 hours.

Today, more than 1,000 local events in around 200 countries are being organised to celebrate Asteroid Day. Sanctioned by the United Nations in 2016, it is a global day of education to raise awareness about asteroids.

In addition to the local events, a day-long broadcast will be transmitted from around the world, with a six-hour live stretch coming from Luxembourg. This is where I will be, sharing the hosting duties with Professor Brian Cox from 11am BST. You can watch the whole thing in the video embedded above.

My association with Asteroid Day began with a phone call from film-maker Grig Richters one afternoon in 2014. I knew Grig and had worked with him on his film, 51° North, drama about the devastating collision of an asteroid with Earth.

On the phone that afternoon, he told me that he wanted to set up a day to sensibly communicate the threat of asteroids and why it needed a global response. This resonated with me because the UK Government’s Asteroid Task Force, from 2001, had recommended building global collaboration to tackle the issue.

Grig’s co-founders for Asteroid Day were Brian May, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist, Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut, and Danica Remy of B612, a non-profit organisation that seeks to “harness the power of science and technology to protect the future of our planet”.

Thanks to their efforts, Asteroid Day was a success from the beginning but this year the number of events is double that from one year ago, and four times as many as during the inaugural Asteroid Day in 2015.

Asteroid Day takes place on 30 June because on this day in 1908, a small celestial body struck an uninhabited area of Siberia, Russia. The blast devastated 770 sq miles (2,000 sq km) of forest. That’s more than enough to destroy a whole city should one be struck.

Around the world, space agencies and other organisations are working towards understanding and eventually protecting Earth from this danger. This burgeoning global collaboration is what is being celebrated today.

Space has always had an uncanny ability to unite people regardless of their political, national or religious divisions. Asteroid Day taps into that, promotes it and hopefully enhances it.

To take part in Asteroid Day, wherever you are, watch the live feed in the viewer above and post any relevant questions for the experts in the comments below. We will be scanning them during the day.

Stuart Clark is the author of The Search for Earth’s Twin (Quercus). He will be delivering the Guardian masterclass on Is there life beyond Earth?.

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