08/11/2004

Queen’s talk to discuss asteroid impact threat

The prospects and implications of an asteroid impact on Earth will be the topic of the November meeting of the Café Scientifique at Queen’s University.

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons, Reader in the Department of Pure and Applied Physics at Queen's, will give the talk, which is open to all and free of charge, on Tuesday in the Malone Lodge Hotel.

The Belfast branch of Café Scientifique was established by Queen's University's Dr Jill Turner who wants local people to be able to explore the latest ideas in science and technology outside a traditional academic setting.

On average 30- 40 Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are discovered each month - asteroids and comets that could one day collide with the Earth. Over 3,000 NEOs have been found, and a world-wide effort involving professional and amateur astronomers attempts to keep track of these objects. Now a team of astronomers at Queen's will endeavour to track some of these objects each week using large high-performance telescopes.

Dr Fitzsimmons and his colleagues from the UK Astrometry and Photometry Programme (UKAPP) for Near-Earth Objects, based at the University, are currently tracking NEOs and feeding their information into the international programme of protecting the Earth from any future impact by a comet or asteroid.

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