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NEOShield – the program the dinosaurs wish they’d had

news editor11 September 2013

Bruce Willis, star of the
1998 film Armageddon
(by jmribolhos54 on Flickr).

pencil-iconWritten by Joanne Leonard, a current PhD student at Imperial College London. Joanne is a science communication intern at the European Planetary Science Congress which is taking place at UCL.

In February 2013 an entirely undetected asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, Russia at roughly 60 times the speed of sound and at a very shallow entry angle. The object, which was ‘only’ 17-20 metres across, exploded as it entered the atmosphere producing a bright flash, many small meteorites and a powerful shock wave damaging 7,200 buildings and injuring 1,500 people.

The light produced was brighter than the Sun, the heat from the fireball was felt by people on the ground and it released 20-30 times more energy than the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima. It also caused significant panic as the lack of detection meant no warning and no explanation!

So what if something 500 metres across was to come our way? Have you ever wondered if there were secret international committees discussing this?

There are.

(more…)

Gravity and continuum, with Christian Böhmer

James M Heather14 February 2013

Dr Christian Böhmer from UCL Mathematics took to the stage for this instalment of the popular UCL Lunch Hour Lectures to tell us all about gravity.The Earth's gravitational field

The lecture opened on a history of gravity, or rather how humans through the ages have looked at what we call gravity.

It started with the ancient Greeks, who refined what the Babylonians and others had observed before.

Just before the years started counting upwards (BCE to CE), there was Ptolemy, who took what was known and made a model of the solar system which – all things considered – was not too shabby.

Previous ideas had all looked a bit too neat and circular, and didn’t take into account the rather inconvenient fact that the planets don’t just travel one way across the sky.

(more…)