On June 30, thousands of the world’s leading asteroid experts will link up with hundreds of events scheduled to take place in cities across the globe. The occasion will mark this year’s installment of the annual Asteroid Day that began in 2015. Event organizers will be launching a new feature this year, with “the first-ever 24-hour broadcast about space” which will be hosted on YouTube.
In anticipation of the event, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned that the human race will have to start departing from Earth within the next 30 years to avoid being wiped out. While Hawking cited over-population and climate change as major reasons for why humans will no longer ba able to inhabit our only known home in the universe, he also stressed the imminence of an asteroid strike.
Professor Hawking was delivering a speech at the Starmus Science Festival in Norway when the world-renowned astrophysicist discussed the urgency of establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars. Hawking says a type of Noah’s Ark will have to be designed to take specimens of all biological life on Earth to another planet, where humans could hopefully create a new habitat.
“We have given our planet the disastrous gift of climate change, rising temperatures, the reducing of polar ice caps, deforestation and decimation of animal species.”
As reported by The Telegraph, Professor Hawkings warned that, apart from climate change and over-population, it is only a matter of time before our planet is destroyed by an asteroid attack. While describing planet Earth as a “cosmic sloth,” Hawking said that the “threats are too big and too numerous” to delay our inevitable departure into different parts of space.
“I am convinced that humans need to leave earth. The Earth is becoming too small for us, our physical resources are being drained at an alarming rate.”
The prolific astrophysicist believes that the Moon and Mars are the most viable options to use as temporary bases from which to develop the technology to venture far deeper into the outer reaches of our solar system. According to Professor Hawing, the ultimate goal would be to reach Alpha Centauri, where astronomers and scientist have identified Proxima B as a planet that is potentially very similar to Earth.
— Dave Dickinson (@Astroguyz) June 20, 2017
If humans remain on the planet we risk being utterly annihilated, the professor warned, and added that “this is not science fiction, it is guaranteed by the laws of physics and probability.”
The idea of deep space travel has long been occupying the minds of creatives in Hollywood, producing countless films and television series imagining what such a voyage would encompass. Well, fans of science fiction, and more particularly Star Trek, will be pleased to know that Professor Hawking believes those imagined technologies may be the very inventions that will propel us further into “the final frontier.”
Hawking confirmed that humans already possess the abilities to build nuclear fusion-powered spaceships that would be propelled by light. Much like the matter-antimatter reactors used in the Star Trek ship, the Enterprise. Inevitably humans will be able to travel at light-speed.
A Russian billionaire philanthropist, Yuri Milner, is already financing a pioneering project that will send a fleet of nano spacecraft – no larger than an iPhone – to Alpha Centauri which is 4.37 light-years away.
Meanwhile, The Daily Mail reported that Dr. Alan Fitzsimmons, a leading astrophysicist, added his voice to Professor Hawking’s warning by agreeing that a potentially apocalyptic asteroid strike is imminent. Dr. Fitzsimmons says that there are “over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects” that threaten to collide with Earth, and that “there are many more waiting to be found.”
A smaller asteroid would likely destroy whole cities and, if larger, could wipe out humanity. However, the expert says that there is not need to panic…yet.
“It is important to know that scientists and engineers have made great strides in detecting Near-Earth Asteroids and understanding the threat posed by them. Astronomers find Near-Earth Asteroids every day and most are harmless.”
Asteroids are pieces or shards of rock, varying in size from small to massive, left over from the Big Bang. These asteroids are perpetually circling our sun – as well as billions of other stars – at great speeds due to the lack of any resistance in space. The asteroids are attracted by the sun’s gravity and can slowly make their way closer and closer within the orbit of a celestial body, potentially entering a collision course with a planet.
— Asteroid Day ☄ (@AsteroidDay) June 20, 2017
The infamous asteroid that is thought to have destroyed the dinosaurs was 6.2-miles (10 kilometers) in diameter but is, fortunately, a very rare occurrence. Nevertheless, if an asteroid about a fifth of the ‘dinosaur killer’s’ size were to collide with Earth, it would release an overwhelming amount of energy more than ten million times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
The dust and debris created by the impact would likely block out the sun’s rays for a period long enough to ensure the death of all living things. A different scenario would see the asteroid plunging into the oceans, setting into motion a series of massive tsunamis that would obliterate entire coastlines and spray seawater into the atmosphere. The ozone layer would be vastly damaged, and survivors of the initial impact would probably die from lethal doses of ultra-violet radiation.
In 1908, a relatively small asteroid entered our atmosphere and over the Siberian town of Tunguska, resulting in total devastation in an area of 800 square miles. The object is believed to have been hurtling towards Earth at a speed of 33,500 miles per hour, resulting in a searing hot explosion equal to 185 Hiroshima bombs.
In January this year, an asteroid equal to the size of a ten story building narrowly missed the Earth when it passed by at a distance of half that of the Moon.
Dr. Fitzsimmons says that, although we’d be able to see an asteroid coming, we do not have the capability to intercept the rock to prevent an impact.
Dr. Joseph Nuth, an expert at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, says “the biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment.” He adds that “they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially.”
At the upcoming Asteroid Day, Dr. Fitzsimmons will be joined by a fellow scientist, Brian Cox, to discuss the imminent threat of a deadly impact.
[Featured Image by MuratArt/Shutterstock]