Asteroid research and planetary defense is of great interest to scientists around the world, which is why June 30 marks international Asteroid Day.
The Asteroid Foundation is hosting its annual series of asteroid-themed panels and talks today (June 30) in Luxembourg. This year's event is being held in person for the first time in two years and also broadcasted live for viewers around the world. You can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of the Asteroid Foundation, or on the foundation's YouTube, beginning at 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. EDT; 0900 GMT).
"Asteroid Day reminds the world of just how important these celestial objects are. They hold the keys to understanding the formation of the solar system, provide stepping stones we will utilize to explore our solar system, and occasionally they hit our planet," Dorin Prunariu, Vice Chair of the Asteroid Foundation and a former chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS), said in a statement. "We are in an extraordinary time of asteroid research and missions, and every year, our asteroid experts bring new insights and revelations."
The foundation's four-hour program will feature seven panel discussions, including talks about the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago, how we discover and track asteroids, and missions planned to defend Earth from these small, rocky bodies — such as NASA's historic first deflection test, DART, slated to collide with an asteroid's moonlet later this year.
Asteroid Day is celebrated annually on June 30, marking the anniversary of the Tunguska meteor explosion in Siberia in 1908. The event began in 2015, at which time it was broadcasted live from London and San Francisco. Asteroid Day is designed to educate the public about asteroid science, research and missions — and this year there is a lot to talk about, with more asteroid missions flying or planned than ever before, the Asteroid Foundation said in a press release.
This year's event will include 37 speakers, including astronauts, researchers, astronomers and engineers. Talks in the series will be moderated by Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project; Phil Plait, an astronomer, blogger and author; Stuart Clark, Asteroid Day's Editorial Director; and Patrick Michel, Director of Research at the Center for Scientific Research in France. You can see a full list of speakers for the day here.
The theme of this year's event, "small is beautiful," represents the fascination that scientists feel for asteroids when they can get a close look. Two of the speakers include representatives from JAXA's Hayabusa2 and NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample return missions. Asteroid samples already returned to Earth are expected to be shared with viewers.