Here's Your Annual Reminder That An Asteroid Could Kill Us All


Jonathan O`Callaghan 29 Jun 2017, 14:33

There are a lot of dangers that threaten Earth: Supervolcanoes, climate change, and so on. But one that normally flies under the radar is the threat of an asteroid hitting Earth. It’s a very real possibility, and also something we can prepare for.

Tomorrow, June 30, is Asteroid Day. This day, sanctioned by the United Nations, aims to increase the awareness of asteroids, trying to drum up support to track them better, and possibly stop one hitting us in the future.

Although it’s been running since 2014, this is the first time the UN has got involved. The European, Japanese, and US space agencies are also all taking part.

"The United Nations declaration of June 30 as Asteroid Day is a very important milestone for us," Grigorij Richters, the founder of Asteroid Day, told IFLScience. "We need to raise awareness about the asteroid hazard. It's a global problem and we need a global solution."

The known orbits of more than 1,000 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs). Jupiter's orbit is around the edge. NASA/JPL-Caltech

There are events taking place around the world tomorrow for Asteroid Day, which will be broadcast live for 24 hours, with the main event in Luxembourg. Some of the names involved include Brian Cox, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Brian May. There’s a full program schedule available so you can tune in when something catches your fancy.

Back in 1908, on June 30, the largest asteroid event in recorded history took place. Known as the Tunguska event, this saw a comet or asteroid explode in the air above Siberia with up to 30 megatons of energy. It flattened 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of forest, and while there were no recorded deaths, it serves as a reminder of the damage asteroids can cause.

It’s estimated that we only know about three-quarters of the asteroids that could hit us. And if a sizeable one measuring at least a few tens of meters across was heading out way, we’d be in trouble. You can see how much trouble in this online simulator.

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