The Sky at Night: Will an Asteroid Destroy Earth? airs Monday 15 May 2023 on BBC Four
The Sky at Night crew investigates the potential danger posed by asteroids striking Earth. Nearly 2,300 asteroids have been labelled as ‘potentially hazardous,’ and it is estimated that another million ‘near-earth objects’ remain undiscovered. The detection of these potential dangers has become an urgent goal for space researchers. And they’re working on some pretty fantastic-sounding strategies for planetary defence.
Maggie visits with asteroid observation expert Professor Alan Fitzsimmons to find out how modern equipment keeps tabs on potential threats to Earth. He details the current threats, including the 9,000-ton Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia and was missed by Earth’s observers. Could this happen once more?
Professor Simon Green of the Open University, who has worked on the recent NASA planetary defence mission Dart, is the first person Chris meets. In this mission, a spacecraft was flown directly into an asteroid in an attempt to change its orbit, and if an asteroid was ever identified as a real threat to earth, this strategy could be used again. Simon explains why it’s more difficult than it sounds to crash into an asteroid.
Pete Lawrence, our resident astrophotographer, explains how to see Jupiter transiting in front of the moon and why the moon is visible during the day.
And planetary scientist Dr. Queenie Chan is meeting with exoplanet hunter George Dransfield at Royal Holloway. Her recent study of the well-known Winchcombe meteorite provides additional proof that asteroids can bring both life and destruction to Earth.
Season 2023 Episode 2
Our team of astronomers tell us what’s on view in the night sky. From comets to quasars, there is always something fascinating to discuss in the Universe.
What time is The Sky at Night: Will an Asteroid Destroy Earth? on tonight
The Sky at Night: Will an Asteroid Destroy Earth? airs Monday 15 May 2023 at 22:00 on BBC Four
Featured image credit: BBC Four
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