Celebrated to raise awareness about the role of asteroids, their possible hazards and impacts, World Asteroid Day came into being to school the general public about the measures to be taken in case of a credible near-Earth object (NEO) threat. Resulting years after the fateful Tunguska event in Siberia, Russia, the day came into being only five years ago after the United Nations adopted a resolution to celebrate the anniversary of the Earth’s largest asteroid impact that took place in 1908.
Each year on June 30, International Asteroid Day is observed by the world. Orbiting around the sun, asteroids are small rocky bodies that vary in size from that of a pebble to being as huge as up to 600 miles across. Too small to be considered a planet, given some of them are too small to be even detected, scientists and astronomers are convinced that these are the leftover material of the Solar System. The Near-Earth Object Survey TELescope or NEOSTEL aka “Flyeye” is an early-warning system that detects a few weeks in advance, the NEOs sized 40 meters and above, before they impact Earth. While a plethora of asteroids still needs to be detected, NASA’s Pan-STARRS and Catalina sky surveys have already detected around twenty thousand near earth asteroids.
In December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/71/90 and declared the Tunguska event of June 30 as the International Asteroid Day. The declaration by UN was to “observe each year at the international level the anniversary of the Tunguska impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908, and to raise public awareness about the asteroid impact hazard.”
People residing in Serbia, Russia reported something like a second sun exploding in the sky, during the early morning of June 30, 1908, right above the Stony Tunguska river in Siberia. While the indigenous Evenks and Yakuts believed it to be the wrath of God to end the world, mineralogists and scientists several hundred years down have declared it to be an incident of an asteroid entering the Earth’s atmosphere and exploding just before touching the ground since no craters were found. From the 700 accounts or more that were collected post the incident, it was found that the explosion had resulted in flattening of an estimated 80 million trees across 820 square miles which was witnessed by thousands of people in a radius of 900 miles of Tunguska river.
The lack of meteoritic material from the charred site only strengthened the claim that the extraterrestrial asteroid had exploded in the atmosphere.