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Leading Planetary Defence Experts announce 21,443 reasons to test asteroid deflection

Press Release From: Asteroid Day
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The co-founder of Asteroid Day, the global movement that helps protect the world from dangerous Asteroids, the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin will host a joint press conference on Friday, 15 November in Berlin, at 11:30am CET in the Museum für Naturkunde (MfN) to highlight the need for increased knowledge of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and support for the space missions necessary to protect Earth from dangerous NEO impacts. Experts will also present an open letter which has been signed by over 1000 scientists and concerned citizens. The letter shows the community's support of missions designed to increase our knowledge of asteroids and near-Earth objects, in particular ESA's Hera Mission (www.esa.int/hera).

Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) 100-m in diameter or larger might one day either strike the Earth’s surface or explode in a fireball at low altitude, in both cases causing severe damage over regions of thousands of square kilometers or more. To date, we have discovered less than 20% of NEOs this large. Unlike other natural disasters, an asteroid impact with Earth is not only one we know how to predict but one we can also prevent, by means that just need to be tested. Today, we are the first generation of humans who have the necessary technology to try to change the trajectory of an asteroid. As such, it is crucial to determine whether a kinetic impactor is capable of deflecting an asteroid as our simulation models predict, before Earth is threatened. This is what Hera will help us assess, jointly with NASA’s DART mission.

The European Hera mission is part of the international AIDA (Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment) collaboration. This is supported by NASA and ESA whom will combine the data obtained from NASA’s DART mission and ESA’s Hera mission to produce the most accurate knowledge possible from the first demonstration of an asteroid deflection technology. We want to learn how we can interact with such bodies and how we might change their trajectories before an asteroid is identified to be on a collision course with Earth. As citizens of our Solar System, we need to expand our body of knowledge of the Universe in which we live and how we can protect our planet from hazards originating from space.

There are several tens of millions of NEOs larger than 10 meters in size that would have an energy larger than a small nuclear weapon if they entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and we have identified just 21,443, as of 5th November, 2019. These bodies are leftover matter from the formation of planets and range in size from a few meters to tens of kilometres. As with Earth, NEOs orbit the Sun and sometimes they come dangerously close or cross Earth’s trajectory – potentially causing impacts. This has happened several times in the past and one day it will happen again. However, with early detection and increased knowledge of the properties of NEOs, we can enhance our tools and techniques under study to deflect NEOs away from Earth retiring the risk of an asteroid impact for good.

DATE OF PRESS CONFERENCE: 15 November 2019

TIME: 11:30 CET

LOCATION: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin

ACCESS FOR MEDIA: In person at the museum (main entrance doors open at 11:00 AM)

● Journalists requesting 1-1 interviews: a buffet will be organized after the conference

allowing direct discussions with the speakers

● Journalists are kindly asked to confirm participation by email to grig@filmsunited.co

PARTICIPANTS:

● Grig Richters (moderator), filmmaker and Asteroid Day co-founder

● Dr. Patrick Michel, AIDA/Hera Principal Investigator, Observatoire C.te d’Azur, CNRS

● Dr. Kai Wünnemann, Head of Division Impact and Meteorite Research at MfN

● Dr. Holger Sierks, Principal Investigator Rosetta/OSIRIS, Planets and Comets, Department at Max

Planck Institute for Solar System Research

● Gisela Pösges, Geologist at Geopark Ries e. V.

● Dr. Timo Stuffler, Director Business Development at OHB

About the Côte d’Azur Observatory

The C.te d’Azur Observatory (OCA) in Nice, France, is a public research centre for Astronomy and Earth sciences. OCA hosts 3 research laboratories, and among them the Lagrange Laboratory of CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), which focuses on research in instrumentation, ground/space- based observations and theoretical/numerical modelling in the fields of planetology, fluid mechanics, plasma and solar physics, and cosmology.

About the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS)

The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany, is one of 84 institutes of the Max Planck Society, Germany’s leading research association devoted to fundamental research. Scientific work at MPS is focused on all bodies within our solar system including the Sun, planets, and small bodies as well as on the interior of distant stars.

About Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

The Museum für Naturkunde - Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science is an integrated research museum within the Leibniz Association. It is one of the most important research institutions worldwide in the areas of biological and geological evolution and biodiversity. It includes research partners in Berlin, Germany and approximately 60 other countries. Over 500,000 visitors per year show that the Museum has become an innovative communication centre that helps shape the scientific and social dialogue about the future of our earth – worldwide.

About Asteroid Day

Asteroid Day is a global movement to increase public awareness of potential asteroid collisions and the means to protect Earth. It was co-founded in 2015, by Prof. Stephen Hawking, Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist and lead guitarist for the rock band Queen, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and German filmmaker Grig Richters. Asteroid Day is held on 30 June each year to mark Earth’s largest asteroid impact in recorded history, the Siberia Tunguska event, which devastated over 2000 square km, the size of any major metropolitan city. Media Contact: grig@filmsunited.co to R.S.V.P.


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