Impact Earth! Protecting the UK and Further Afield from Impacts by Near Earth Objects

Impact Earth
Gareth Collins
Start Date
End Date

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Impacts from space occur, the only questions are what, where and when (see for example Binzel, 2000; NEO Taskforce Report 2000, 2001). Fortunately, most bodies which enter the atmosphere are small and not hazardous – cm-scale meteoroids burn up as shooting stars and slightly larger m-scale objects, fall as meteorites. But larger, less common events can be hazardous. At tens of m scale, meteoroids break up above the ground in violent airbursts that can cause blast damage on the ground, e.g. the 1908 Tunguska (Jenniskens, 2018) and 2013 Chelyabinsk airbursts (Popova et al., 2013). And at even larger sizes around 100 m size, albeit less frequently, the meteoroid can impact the surface at high speed, forming a crater around 20 times its own size, scattering debris and causing ground shaking and tsunami waves in a marine environment. At these scales the damage is still regional rather than global. As the impactor size increases even further, so does the damage until the consequences are climate-changing, world-wide extinction level events.

How can a single country prepare for such an event? What do we know and what do we need to know about such events? How well do we understand the hazards of the relatively more frequent airbursts compared to cratering events? How much advance notice might we have, and what should we do in this time? What should the UK contribution be to the world-wide efforts in this field? Even if the damage were regional and the airburst/impact site not in the UK, we will need a planned local response to disasters elsewhere. Indeed how do we make plans and decisions, when the events are rare and the advance warning is often imprecise with associated uncertainties, but failure to make decisions sufficiently early can lead to avoidable damage later. 

This meeting will explore these and related questions from the viewpoint of the UK. Talks are welcome on any aspect of this problem, such as: the composition and properties of bodies in space, tracking bodies in space and determining the likelihood of collision, space missions or techniques for deflecting hazardous objects in space, the likely degree of damage for a given impact scenario, how to prepare for and mitigate effects of an impact in the UK if it cannot be avoided, potential legal implications, and how to communicate with and educate the public/media/politicians.



-Binzel R.P. “The Torino Impact Hazard Scale”. Planetary and Space Science 48, 297 – 303, 2000.

-Jenniskens, P. "Tunguska eyewitness accounts, injuries and casualties". Icarus 327, 4 – 18, 2019.

-NEO Taskforce Report. Task Force Report | The Spaceguard Centre, 2000.

-NEO Taskforce Report. “Near Earth objects: UK Task Force Report”. Space Policy 17, 65 – 67, 2001.

-Popova O.P., et al. “Chelyabinsk Airburst, Damage Assessment, Meteorite Recovery, and Characterization.” Science 342(6162) 1069 – 1073, 2013.


Please send all enquiries to Prof Burchell at, clearly indicating in the email header that your message relates to the RAS meeting “Impact Earth”


Abstract submission is open from Feb 1st until March 1st.

Abstracts should preferably be prepared in Word and sent to Prof. Mark Burchell at, clearly marked as “Abstract for RAS May meeting”. The abstract should have a clear title at the top in bold, followed by author names (with the submitting author’s name underlined) and affiliations. The body of the text should then follow and should take up no more than half an A4 page. If authors wish, they can also include an image, acknowledgements and references, as long as the total length is limited to a single A4 page. 


Any enquiries about abstract submission, or the meeting, should also be sent to



Mark Burchell (University of Kent)

Gareth Collins (Imperial College, London)

Massimiliano Vasile (Strathclyde University)


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Venue Address

The Royal Astronomical Society,Burlington House


51.5085763, -0.13960799999995