It's not often we celebrate something that has the potential to wipe out life as we know it –– but Happy World Asteroid Day! The first-ever event, organized to raise awareness of the cosmic threat over our heads, comes as we learn more about the dangers poised by asteroids –– and, as witnessed in Russia in 2013, their cataclysmic potential even in small sizes.
As a phenomenal primer to highlight how crazy the traffic of space rocks around planet Earth is, YouTube science and space star Scott Manley threw together a helpful 360-degree video that puts it all into frightening perspective. I've embedded the video below –– but in order to take advantage of the 360-degree mouse movements, you'll need to view this page in the Chrome browser.
All set? Excellent. Now hit play below to hear Scott's narration while simultaneously floating your mouse over the video and holding down the left button to move around. As you'll hear, the video shows the orbits of roughly 5,000 of the closest near-Earth asteroids known to man. To date, we've discovered over 12,000, a huge number, but only 1 percent of the total NASA predicts are actually present.
That unknown is a gigantic worry, especially when you consider that hundreds of thousands of near-Earth asteroids average 130 feet across –– large enough, according to Live Science, to level 80 million trees or the entire city of Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.
One of those helping to lead the charge for awareness on World Asteroid Day is Queen frontman Brian May, who also happens to hold a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
“It’s absolutely possible there’s something out there of the magnitude that would wipe out a major city of the world, and that’s a very big thing: you’re talking about a human disaster on a vast scale," he told the Guardian. “This is about saving us all. All the people on the planet, all the creatures on the planet, everything which we have built up and might be proud of. It’s a kind of insurance if you like,” he said.
May and other notables like Peter Gabriel, Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and Bill Nye the Science Guy are urging people to sign the 100X Declaration, an online petition demanding increased funding to speed up the rate of asteroid detection by 100 times.
Want to learn more? There's an incredible lineup of live presentations and other events planned for the rest of the day. Browse the entire list here.