Asteroid Day and Nigeria’s importance – Part 1
The history of life on our planet is a drama that has been unfurling for three and a half billion years—replete with twists and turns, in which impersonal forces repeatedly drive Earth’s biology to the brink.
Cataclysmic upheavals of various kinds, since life first evolved, have wrought seven major extinctions of terrestrial organisms and several minor ones.
But luckily, nature is a master plotter; and life has a tenacious and resilient character, with a penchant for battling back from the edge of the abyss: Otherwise, we humans wouldn’t be on the scene.
Among the physical purveyors of these mass extinctions, are gargantuan volcanic eruptions, climatic fluctuations, sea level changes, and—getting to the issue at hand–meteoritic impacts.
Quite aptly, a number of nations will, on the 30th, commemorate Asteroid Day: A round of public ceremonies, to focus global attention on the threat impactors from space pose to human survival.
As far as I know, no programmes are planned in this country, where the intrepid National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) is cash-strapped.
Nevertheless, Nigeria’s national interests would be very well served, if schools, churches, astronomy clubs, universities and the lower tiers of government would rise to the occasion.
There are enormous strategic concerns at stake. After all, the asteroid threat is global in scope; and every atlas I’ve seen, show clearly, that Nigeria occupies space on the globe.
Serious though it is, the looming cosmic impact hazard carries no mystical, religious or apocalyptic connotations. It is definitely not a sign of the “end-time”.
Asteroids are orbiting debris, left over from the solar system’s formation: Shards of primordial bodies that may have coalesced to form a fifth rocky planet, had Jupiter not shattered them, gravitationally.
The danger to us, arises from the evolution and mechanical dynamics of the solar system—and Earth’s position in it.
Actually, a global catastrophe should be of less strategic concern to Nigeria, than the prospect of a local or regional cataclysm.
Not only does Africa figure prominently in the history, lore and statistics of asteroid impacts, but Nigeria’ s own landmass is also subject to frequent cosmic bombardment.
Before I explore this conundrum further though, Asteroid Day was reportedly conceived to increase knowledge of (a) when an asteroid might strike and (b) how we can protect ourselves.
Globally, a wide variety of organizations, agencies, institutions and individuals are expected to hold ceremonies.
These include various governmental organs, museums, universities, science clubs, astronomy clubs, scientists, professional bodies, research institutes, film makers, schools and concerned citizens.
Among the festivities, to be staged at venues around the world, are lectures, concerts, the screening of film, drama, sky-watching events, art exhibits, panel discussions and astronomy-related tours.
The ceremonies started year and a half ago, when simultaneous press conferences, in London and San Francisco, announced the birth of Asteroid Day (which had earlier been conceived in Britain).
Organizers staged the first formal commemorative event, June 30, 2015—exactly 107 years after the most destructive impact event in modern human history. It occurred at Tunguska, in Russian Siberia.
The early morning, 15 megaton explosion released roughly 1000 times more energy than the U.S. atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima.
It flattened 2000 km of forest, knocked people unconscious 60 km away and blew reindeer herders into the air, 30 km from the epicenter.
Asteroid Day, is partly a memorial to this catastrophe. But with a million potentially threatening objects undetected, it is also a reminder that a “Tunguska” could be lurking in our own future.
To be continued.