Let's take a moment to appreciate all the ways the universe could destroy life on the planet, but hasn't. Gamma ray bursts, solar flares knocking out the power grid, nearby supernovae, wandering asteroids.... Oh, those poor dinosaurs. So what are we doing and are we prepared. Carrie Nugent, asteroid hunter, is here to tell us what astronomers have planned.
If the thought of asteroids has been keeping you up at night then you should pick up Asteroid Hunter
by Carrie Nugent or if you can sleep then you should still stay up reading this book anyway.
Once you dive in you quickly realize the situation isn’t as dire as it initially sounds. Carrie has a conversational tone as she talks about daily meteor impacts from space. Oh and don’t worry, these are teeny-tiny objects, not the end-of-a-species space rock.
She manages to fit the history of asteroid discovery to modern day research into a quick read. She highlights the rise in asteroid awareness and the challenges in observing asteroids, but it took some dire asteroid movies and real world events like Shoemaker Levy to really bring asteroids to the forefront of our space awareness. It’s good to know we’re in better hands than the dinosaurs thanks to people like Carrie who are tracking these asteroids and figuring out ways prevent future collisions. Now those big scary asteroids aren’t as scary because we know where they are and we can plan to deal with them.
Keeping an eye on the sky for asteroids can be tricky. Like the book reminds us over and over again, you never want to look directly at the sun and you want to share your data. Scientists are at the point where they can track an asteroid and predict the orbits for up to 400 years, but they have to see them first. The sun is an obvious obstruction and other planets in our line of site can block our field-of-view. This is how we get surprise asteroid appearances every now and then. An asteroid will pop out from behind the sun or another obstructing objects and astronomers have to collaborate to figure out where it go next. A tool like STK would come in handy because it would allow you to model the physical environment and help you figure out where you lose line-of-sight, especially when the fields-of-view change because of orbits over time.
Like the book cover says, this small book covers some really big ideas, and you don’t have to be an expert in the field to enjoy it. Anyone willing to learn about a new topic or anyone interested in space would learn a lot from this read.