Rotary: Galen Gisler On Threat Of Near-Earth Asteroids

Dr. Galen Gisler, retired LANL astrophysicist and community volunteer, recently spoke at the Rotary Club of Los Alamos about the threat of near-Earth asteroids. He described the impacts of the Chicxulub impact in present-day Yucatan that is responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, as well as those impacts in our modern age: Tunguska, Siberia in 1908 and Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. To study the threat, scientists find potentially hazardous asteroids, calculate their orbits, monitor and characterize them, and if necessary, develop and execute a deflection mission. The intent of the deflection is to alter the asteroid’s orbit away from Earth. Methods considered include a gravity tractor, kinetic impact, a nuclear explosive device, and a spacecraft swarm with lasers, ion beams, or solar mirrors. For more information, visit the Minor Planet Center,, which operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Photo by Linda Hull