As part of the 14th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, astrobiologist and planetary scientist David Morrison, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute, will discuss The Meteor That Exploded Over Russia Last Year: Can We Survive a Bigger Impact?, an illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.
What would happen if an asteroid collided with the Earth? On Feb. 15, 2013, a rocky projectile entered the Earth’s atmosphere traveling at more than 11 miles per second. It was about 65 feet in diameter, or half the diameter of the impact of 1908, which flattened a thousand square miles of Siberian forest. Its terminal explosion, at an altitude of 14 miles, released energy of about half a megaton, equivalent to a couple dozen Hiroshima-sized atom bombs. About two minutes later, the shock wave reached the ground in Chelyabinsk, Russia, breaking windows and injuring 1,500 people from flying glass. Since the impactor approached the Earth from very near the direction of the Sun, it could not have been seen by any ground-based optical telescope of any size. It therefore struck without warning. Has this event served as a kind of cosmic wake-up call for planetary defense? NASA recently announced a “grand challenge” to find all asteroids that could threaten human populations, and to figure out how to deal with them. David Morrison will discuss the Chelyabinsk impact and evaluate ways we might meet the grand challenge to protect our population from space impacts.
Dr. Morrison is the director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute in Mountain View. He has been an international leader for two decades in defining the asteroid impact hazard and planning approaches to planetary defense; in recognition of this work, Asteroid 2410 Morrison is named in his honor. Morrison has also made many contributions to teaching astronomy and space science, including authorship of several college textbooks in astronomy and planetary science. He is a popular writer and public lecturer, promoting a scientific and fact-based perspective about such topics as the evolution-creationist conflict and climate-change denialism. Recently, he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for using science to counteract public fears about the end of the world in December 2012.
The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online atwww.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html. A number of past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are now available free on YouTube on the series' own channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/SVAstronomyLectures/.
Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.