Are we still at risk from Asteroids Crashing into Earth?

Bernardo Flynn (12) from Educate Together National School, Newcastle, Galway, who enjoyed a day of education about asteroids with physicists from the Centre of Astronomy at NUI Galway, to mark World Asteroid Day. Photo: Aengus McMahon
Jun 30 2017 Posted: 08:47 IST

Some questions for local school children as NUI Galway marks World Asteroid Day

Scientists from the Centre of Astronomy at NUI Galway marked World Asteroid Day today (30 June) with almost 100 students from 4th, 5th and 6th class at Educate Together National School, Newcastle in Galway. NUI Galway’s Centre for Astronomy is the chosen designated centre in Ireland by global organisation Asteroid Day to celebrate the annual international event, which is a global awareness campaign to learn about asteroids, the impact hazard they may pose, and what we can do to protect our planet, families, communities, and future generations from future asteroid impacts.

Asteroid Day was co-founded in 2014, by Dr Brian May, astrophysicist and lead guitarist for the rock band Queen, Danica Remy, B612 President, 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 2,000 km2 of forest, an area the size of any major metropolitan city today.

In 2016, Asteroid Day was declared by the United Nations to be a global day of education to raise awareness about asteroids, their role in our solar system and the need to use science and technology to increase our knowledge and ability to protect humanity from dangerous impacts and facilitate future exploration.

More than 700 events in 190 countries around the world are taking place for Asteroid Day, with NUI Galway being the only designated centre in Ireland to host events. To celebrate the day, the NUI Galway scientists setup a day of themed workshops and activities with the 10-12 year-old students at Educate Together National School.

The students also heard about two asteroids that are named after two NUI Galway astronomers, Professor Andrew Shearer and Dr Aaron Golden. Both asteroids are known as main-belt asteroids which are located between Mars and Jupiter, which orbit about 300-400 million kilometres from the sun. Both were discovered by the Swedish astronomer C.-I. Lagerkvist in 1979. Astronomers, Professor Shearer and Dr Golden work in the field of high-time-resolution astrophysics and image processing, and were responsible for the measurements of optical pulsations from two pulsars.

Speaking about the event in Galway, Professor Andrew Shearer from the School of Physics and Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway, said: “Asteroid Day is a wonderful opportunity to engage schools and community in an international scientific event. Asteroids, relics from the birth of the solar system give us a fascinating insight into what we are made of. Famous asteroids include the one which killed the dinosaurs. The question remains: are we still at risk from asteroids crashing into the earth?”

School workshop and engagement activities include:

  • The Size of the Sun – Arranging imagery of earth, sun and space objects in order of their size, their distance from earth and their temperature. By manipulating these images the students confronted their own mental models of space and time.
  • Create a Rocket – The students constructed and designed rockets that were successfully launched! Using plastic soft drink bottles, cardboard, tape, and glue.
  • Pasta Rover - Using only pasta and glue, the students designed planetary pasta rovers to travel down a ramp and then travel an additional one meter on a smooth, flat surface. The students used the same engineering design process that NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers use to improve their designs.
  • Asteroid modelling clay and paper – The students shaped their own asteroid models out of clay and paper as part of a hands-on lesson to learn how asteroids form, what they are made of, and where they can be found in our Solar System.
  • Snakes & Ladders Game - The classic snakes and ladders game was replaced by rockets and comets in this astronomy themed version. A challenging and interactive way to learn various astronomical objects while moving your way to the winning square as space travellers.
  • Talk with an NUI Galway Physicist – A talk with an astrophysicist, Ray Butler from the Centre of Astronomy at NUI Galway to learn about the nature and threat of asteroids followed by a question and answer session.

A public talk by Dr Ray Butler from the Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway entitled ‘Asteroids: Earth in the firing line’ will take place at the University’s Kirwan Theatre in the Arts Science Building from 7pm–8pm today Friday 30 June, to celebrate World Asteroid Day.

Events for Asteroid Day 2017 are planned around the world and include participation this year from major space agencies: European Space Agency (ESA); Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) and NASA, America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where every day is asteroid day. Events will take place for all ages at science centres, planetariums, observatories, museums, schools, theatres, libraries, civic, government halls and town squares.

Tune in to NASA Facebook live videos with 2017 Astronauts from Johnson Space Centre in Houston on 30 June, using the hashtag #NewAstronauts at:

To join NUI Galway’s celebrations of World Asteroid Day online, Follow @nuigalway and NUI Galway on Facebook.

To view World Asteroid Day events on the global map visit:


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