Inaugural Asteroid Day kicks off with a petition

An artist's conception of an asteroid smashing into a proto-planet. The image is based on data collected by NASA's Spitzer's Space Telescope about an explosion near star NGC 2547-1D8 in August 2012-2013. The collision took place in the zone around the star where rocky planets are likely to form.

A petition calling for more resources to track potentially deadly asteroids was signed by eminent scientists, artists and musicians to mark the first Asteroid Day (June 30).

The petition calls for "a rapid 100-fold acceleration of the discovery and tracking of near-Earth asteroids to 100,000 per year within the next 10 years".

It says that of the million asteroids in our Solar System that have the potential to destroy a city only 10,000 (or 1%) have been identified. Asteroid Day was launched last year by Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May and filmmaker Grigorii Richters.

The day marks the anniversary of the largest asteroid strike in recent times, the Tunguska event in Siberia, 1908, when 2,000 square klometres of conifer forest was flattened by a 40-metre rock that exploded in the atmosphere.

Eminent signatories of the petition include Peter Gabriel, Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and Eileen Collins, the first female commander of NASA's space shuttle.

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