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Dinosaurs didn't track asteroids, but you can

By: Maggie Handler

With Fourth of July right around the corner, it’s easy to gloss over one of Earth’s (yes, all of Earth) most important holidays on June 30th. International Asteroid Day, or Asteroid Day, is officially recognized by the United Nations to:

Raise public awareness about the asteroid impact hazard and inform the public about the crisis communication actions to be taken at the global level in case of a credible near-Earth object threat.

While it would’ve been a great idea to enact this global awareness campaign shortly after the asteroid incident that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, Asteroid Day was established in 2015 on the anniversary of the Siberian Tunguska asteroid event, the largest in recent Earth history. So, how does civilization prepare for the threat of an asteroid impact?

To protect humanity better than the dinosaurs did for themselves, it’s important to expand our awareness on these large, flying space rocks. Thankfully, we have access to technology and language; two innovations the dinosaurs simply couldn’t figure out back then. Space Situational Awareness (SSA) is one approach to increase our knowledge of near-Earth objects and to keep a clean space environment. Methods like sky-scanning telescopes, radar, and even missions to asteroids, are all encompassed in SSA technologies. AGI offers a range of SSA services, but has been modeling asteroid data for years using Systems Tool Kit (STK) to accurately visualize asteroid fly-bys and even model possible collisions. So, while an asteroid impact may seem far-fetched, at least we can prepare for the possibility, however remote.

To dive deeper into asteroid-impact awareness, a concerned citizen will want to animate an event showing:

  • Deep space trajectory as the asteroid approaches Earth
  • The pass by Earth below the Geostationary Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and the crossing of the equatorial plane from South to North
  • A close-up of the asteroid during its nearest approach
  • A highlighted portion of Earth orbit that it is expected to pass through

Although it may seem like science fiction, asteroid impacts can happen-and have happened-to our planet. With the help of SSA capabilities the world can prepare for impact. For those interested in becoming experts on asteroid awareness, or even just to geek out over fantastic sky watching events, learn how to load asteroid ephemeris data into the free STK download.

Have a very happy (and safe) International Asteroid Day!

Posted: 6/28/2018 6:56:52 PM


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