WHICH COULD WIPE OUT HUMAN RACE
14 June 2015 by Steve White
Scientists have named June 30 as ‘Asteroid Day’ to help raise the cash to build and launch orbiting space observatory Sentinel
Scientists want to raise £160million to build an orbiting space observatory. We will space rock you: May is concerned by solar system debris
Queen rocker Brian May is helping scientists raise £160million to build an orbiting space observatory to save the world from asteroid attack.
The boffins have named June 30 as ‘Asteroid Day’ to help raise the cash to build and launch Sentinel.
Supporters other than guitarist May include Martin Rees, the astronomer royal; biologist Richard Dawkins; Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart; Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto; British astronaut Helen Sharman; and cosmonaut Alexey Leonov.
Their aim is to highlight the dangers facing Earth and track deadly asteroids that may be lurking in near-Earth space. They claim a small asteroid, perhaps only a few hundred yards across, hitting Earth would devastate a continent or trigger tsunamis.
June marks the anniversary of the “Tunguska event”, when a small asteroid or comet exploded above Siberia with the force of 1,000 atomic bombs in 1908 – the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history.
“Asteroid impacts are one of the few threats we can quantify,” Lord Rees said. “Every 10 million years or so, a body a few kilometres across will hit the Earth, causing global catastrophe – there are a few chances in a million that this is how we will die. However, there are larger numbers of smaller asteroids that could cause regional or local devastation. A body that is, say, 300 metres across, if it fell into the Atlantic, would produce huge tsunamis that would devastate much of Europe as well as the east coast of the US.”
The Sentinel telescope would be launched on a Falcon 9 Space X rocket and would hover in space relatively close to the sun, looking back out into space and surveying asteroids and meteorites that approach the Earth.
“Sentinel would be fitted with an infra-red telescope as asteroids are generally charcoal black and difficult to spot in space,” added Murphy. “However, an infra-red telescope would allow it to detect asteroids from their heat.”
Lord Rees added: “The cost of an impact would be colossal, which means – if you calculate an insurance premium in the usual way by multiplying probability by consequences, it turns out to be worth spending $1billion a year to reduce asteroid risk.”