What good would an early warning system against potential asteroid impacts be if the relevant information regarding the asteroid and its projected impact zone could not be effectively communicated by the area to be affected? That was the chief source of concern for experts and scientists meeting at a workshop for the Secure World Foundation in September, according to the recently released report.
Space.com reported (via Yahoo News) Nov. 20 that the workshop’s deliberations and conclusions, drawn up in a report made public this week, were designed to assist the IAWN (International Asteroid Warning Network). The IAWN, which is an agency set up by the United Nations, is charged with the task of gathering and analyzing near-Earth object (NEO) data to provide timely warnings to authorities throughout the world should a potentially hazardous NEO threaten the Earth. The workshop’s recommendations, it must be noted, have not been reviewed, endorsed, or adopted by the IAWN.
Among the recommendations was the development of a long-term plan (five years) should be adopted to establish IAWN as a trusted and credible entity. IAWN should also hire personnel to create and maintain communications, build and monitor a warning website, and develop a scale of impending hazard with which to communicate the severity of the approaching danger. And IAWN should also sponsor workshops and seminars to educate reporters in order to better communicate NEO informations within the mass media community.
Michael Simpson, SWF’s Executive Director, told Space.com, “Communicating about any future asteroid threat will not be easy. People will need messages they can act on, and they will deserve to know the limitations on what modern science can predict.”
The need for such an asteroid early warning system was brought home in early 2013 when a bolide appeared undetected burning its way across the Russian skies, then exploding in mid-air, sending a shocking through the surrounding countryside, shaking buildings, shattering windows, and hitting individuals with such force as to send over 1,500 people to the hospital for medical treatment.
To underscore the necessity of having such an early warning system to alert the Earth of impending asteroid impacts, the non-profit B612 Foundation, released a video earlier this year showing that there have been 26 incidents of severe meteor impacts upon the Earth since 2000, impacts with blasts that rated at least one kiloton in strength. The Chelyabinsk meteor was estimated to have been equivalent to dropping 40 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
“There is no point to discovering an impending danger from an asteroid if it’s not then possible to warn those who will be affected by it,” astronomer Jose Luis Galache of the Minor Planet Center told Space.com, “Effective communication of the NEO hazard or imminent threat by a particular asteroid is paramount and just as important as NEO discovery.”
Working with groups like the B612 Foundation, which will attempt to place a surveillance spacecraft in position to search for near Earth objects in a solar blind spot (like the direction from whence came the Chelyabinsk meteor), IAWN will assist in making the discovery and/or tracking of potential dangers a priority.