International Expert Explains Asteroids' 'Real' Threat to Earth

International Expert Explains Asteroids’ ‘Real’ Threat to Earth

Join space expert Humberto Campins at the Orlando Science Center on Saturday, Dec. 1 for a hands-on program that delivers the real story when it comes to asteroids that threaten Earth.

Campins, a physics professor at the University of Central Florida, will also share exciting details about forthcoming NASA and European Space Agency missions that will bring back samples from asteroids.

The two–part program includes an 11 a.m. talk for general audiences followed by an interactive session for children in the Science on the Sphere exhibit on the fourth floor of the museum at 777 E. Princeton St. in Orlando.

“We often hear about Armageddon because an asteroid has been spotted hurtling toward Earth,” Campins said. “There’s a lot of hype, but as individuals we need not worry about it, because it is so unlikely to occur during our lifetime. However, as a civilization we need to be ready because the consequences of an impact could be very severe. That means we need to understand these asteroids so we can deflect one if needed. But that’s just the beginning. They may reveal how early life evolved on Earth.”

Campins headed up the first team that discovered ice on an asteroid in 2010, bolstering the theory that water may have been brought to Earth by asteroids. Campins also is a member of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team, which will launch a space vehicle to capture an asteroid, scoop up a sample and bring it back to Earth. Campins also is on the European Space Agency’s Marco Polo-R team that is targeting a different asteroid and will bring back another sample.

“It’s a very exciting time in space exploration,” Campins said. “And the future is so bright. I want people to know where we are and where we’re going and to inspire children to pursue science and technology so they, too, can explore the stars.”

The special presentations, sponsored by the UCF College of Sciences, coincides with the Orlando Science Center’s Star Wars exhibit, which aims to explore the exciting world of sci-fi and real science. Campins also will offer tips for the best viewing of the Geminid asteroid shower expected to be at its peak Dec. 12-14.

This is one of two events focused on asteroid research coming to the Central Florida area.

UCF and the Florida Space Institute will host an Asteroid Viewing Party on Feb. 15 at UCF’s main campus. It will feature a view of asteroid 2012 DA 14, which is expected to squeeze by Earth and the commercial satellites orbiting the planet.  The public will see the fly-by through exclusive live feeds from telescopes in Spain, including those at La Sagra and Mallorca Astronomical Observatories, where this asteroid was discovered, and also from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries.

Dr. Michael F. A’Hearn, the scientist who led NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which launched the first man-made object into the nucleus of a comet, and Dr. Harold Reitsema, a planetary scientist who is part of the B612 Foundation’s (http://b612foundation.org) private effort to launch a telescope that will locate and track asteroids that could hit Earth, will also speak at that event. The scientists will talk about why asteroid research is so vital to Earth, and the NASA and private efforts to track them.

For information about the Orlando Science Center event visit www.osc.org or call 407-514-2000.