Happy Asteroid Day: We Are Woefully Unprepared!

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The comet visited by the Rosetta space probe, which, fortunately, is not hurtling toward Earth. NASA

The American Museum of Natural History has released a video titled “Deflecting Asteroids,” embedded below, to mark the first Asteroid Day this June 30. The designated day was created to give the public yet another apocalyptic scenario to sit uncomfortably at the back of the mind, next to climate change and Ebola.

 

“If it’s big enough, an asteroid from the asteroid belt can really do a lot of damage,” the video informs viewers, over images of an asteroid colliding with a city in scenes reminiscent of the 1998 space thriller Deep Impact.

Denton Ebel, division chair in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the New York City museum, then walks through several strategies that could prevent a cataclysmic asteroid impact, from coloring the incoming rock white so that the sun’s rays might alter its course to firing missiles at it and hoping for the best.

June 30 was selected because it also marks the anniversary of the Tunguska event 107 years ago, when an asteroid slammed into the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over Siberia, devastating hundreds of miles of forest. Luckily, the area had low population density, and there were no deaths or injuries.

Russia was also the scene of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, an event that thrust space-related dangers back into the public consciousness after a meteor that crashed to Earth was caught on tape by dashboard cameras. 

An asteroid collision is within the realm of possibility, and very much something that governments and the public should be prepared for, Ebel told Newsweek. “As a citizen, I want governments to be proactive on this, and that means that people need to support policies and support politicians who are aware and will push the science and the engineering and the technology,” he added. “Big asteroids will hit the Earth, and we need to know how to do something about it.”