ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s almost Asteroid Day! It’s a day to learn about asteroids and their impacts on Earth. And the New Mexico Natural History Museum will have some special offerings for visitors, as long as they’re from this planet.
What is Asteroid Day?
Asteroid Day is a globally recognized day meant to bring awareness to the risk of asteroid impacts. It began several years ago. And the founding members include Brian May — yes, the rock star is also an astrophysicist — as well as an Apollo 9 astronaut, a filmmaker, and the president of B612 Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to mapping the solar system.
By 2016, the United Nations marked June 30 as International Asteroid Day. It’s the same day as the largest asteroid impact in recorded history, the 1908 Tunguska event in Russia.
“Incoming!” museum show and exhibits
To celebrate Asteroid Day, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque will have a feature show in the planetarium. The show called “Incoming!” will explore the past, present, and future of the planet though a look at asteroid and comet collisions. The show is narrated by George Takei, from Star Trek, and looks at events like the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor.
The museum will also have a live broadcast of Asteroid Day events from around the world. And there will be hands-on activities for families to learn how to recognize meteorites. Here’s a link to more detail about the museum’s offerings.
“We do know that asteroids and comets do impact the Earth from time to time,” says Jim Greenhouse, the space science director at the history museum. “Fortunately there hasn’t been any huge impacts in the last few million years to affect the course of human civilization. But, you know, a new asteroid or comet could impact the earth at any time. So NASA is actually launching several missions to find out more about asteroids and comets. Some of those missions will be featured in some of the content that we display on table activities that are happening on Asteroid Day.”
So what are asteroids?
The definition of an asteroid is actually pretty broad. “Asteroids and comets are basically objects that are smaller than planets or moons that are in orbit around the sun,” Greenhouse says.
“Asteroids are usually made either out of rock or metal. The vast majority of them are actually made out of rock. Comets are made mostly out of ice. They’re kind of like dirty snowballs,” Greenhouse says. And meteorites are asteroids that make it to the Earth.
And these can tell us about how the solar system formed. That’s why researchers, such as those at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Institute of Meteoritics, study asteroids and meteors.
“We look at the look at the meteorites as remnants of asteroids that were planetary building blocks that have been preserved to the present day,” explains Horton Newsom, a researcher at UNM. “So we’re getting samples of what the material that made up the solar system were when first formed.”