International Asteroid Day is an annual event celebrated since 2015 with the purpose of increasing awareness of asteroids, and minor bodies in general, and what can be done to prevent catastrophic events involving the Earth.
The date chosen for the day is 30 June to mark the date of the Earth’s largest asteroid impact in recorded history, the Siberia Tunguska event. On that day, a 30-40-meter planet exploded in the stratosphere, destroying and setting fire to a vast area of Siberia (2,150 square kilometres), fortunately uninhabited.
The official celebrations were established in 2014 by UNESCO at the urging of Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist of the Queen rock band; Russell Louis “Rusty” Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut; Danica Remy, president of the B612 Foundation; and Grig Richters, film-maker and political activist. As explained, the goal of this year’s edition is to raise awareness not only in the scientific community but also in the world of public opinion about the so-called Near Earth Objects (NEOs, or celestial bodies floating in space close to our Planet). Asteroids may be remnants of the protoplanetary disk that were not incorporated into planets during the formation of the Solar System, while on the contrary, meteoroids are much smaller fragments.
Earth is continually exposed to impacts from asteroids, stars and meteorites. Most of these celestial bodies disintegrate upon contact with the first layers of Earth’s atmosphere and thus pose no threat to our survival. Hundreds of new asteroids are discovered every month, each with its own characteristic and shape.