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'Asteroid Hunters' launches on IMAX screens this week. Here's an exclusive 1st look!

A new IMAX film celebrates the scientists and engineers who are working to keep our planet safe from potentially hazardous space rocks.

The 38-minute documentary "Asteroid Hunters" hits theaters across the United States Thursday (Oct. 8) during World Space Week 2020 after a premiere two days earlier at the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida.

"This film is about the threat of asteroids and what we can actually do about that," says Phil Groves, writer and producer of the film, in a new featurette.

Related: 7 great movies featuring Earth-threatening asteroids

The featurette opens with narrator Daisy Ridley, best known for her role as Rey in "Star Wars," introducing viewers to the idea of stopping space rocks before they hit Earth. (Fortunately, NASA has found no imminent threats yet.)

"What if we could stop an asteroid from hitting in the first place?" Ridley asks. "Some of our brightest minds think we can."

The new IMAX film "Asteroid Hunters" is scheduled to be released on Oct. 8, 2020. (Image credit: Courtesy of IMAX)

Glimpses of the film, shown in a short video featurette, show clips such as an asteroid looming over New York City, space rocks plotted on computer screens, and some of the telescopes and people who are working on addressing the problem.

The film will show a hypothetical asteroid on its way toward Earth and the impact on an evacuated city — including trees set on fire miles away, buildings falling due to the shockwave, and cubic miles of soil launching towards the upper atmosphere. Fortunately, this has not happened in the recent past, although an asteroid is blamed for the demise of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago.

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is part of a network of United States agencies working to address the threat of asteroid impacts, gathering information from several telescopes that regularly scan the sky. Space agencies also send missions to asteroids to better characterize their composition, in case one day we would like to knock one out of the path of Earth. Current missions include Japan's Hayabusa2 on the way to Earth from the asteroid Ryugu, and NASA's OSIRIS-Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer), which will soon perform a sample collection at asteroid Bennu.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.