Centauri Dreams has always advocated a robust asteroid detection program to help us get an accurate census of objects that might endanger Earth. Thus I’m happy to report on promising events at the UK’s sole observatory dedicated to Earth-crossing asteroids. The Spaceguard Center in Wales has been offered a new telescope by the Institute of Astronomy (Cambridge), the light pollution in the latter location having reached the point where observations are seriously compromised.
Fortunately, there are parts of Wales with dark skies indeed. Thus the Schmidt instrument, useful for identifying objects moving against the stellar background, should be useful not only for searching but also tracking comets and asteroids. Absent funding sources in Wales or the UK government itself, the observatory turns to private sponsorship as the potential solution. We’ll keep an eye on how that effort goes — an estimated £54,000 ought to do the trick, and as this BBC report notes, the site’s possibilities as a tourist attraction may boost fundraising.
Looked at from an international perspective, it is stunning that there is so little coordination among scientists trying to identify Earth-crossing objects or deal with the threat once a danger is identified. Yet our growing knowledge of the role impacts have played in the development of life on our planet makes the need to prepare for the worst contingencies an imperative. Located near Knighton in mid-Wales, the Spaceguard Centre offers another option for finding a potential danger and, let’s hope, for educating the public about a threat to life that is all too real.