Leading scientists join calls to protect Earth from asteroids

Nasa artist's impression of the asteroid belt surrounding the star Vega. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Scientists and astronomers are calling for more action to prevent a devastating asteroid strike.

A hundred names, including famous faces such as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, physicist Brian Cox and Astronomer Royal and rock guitarist Brian May are demanding action be taken to protect the Earth.

They are calling for a rapid 100-fold increase in the discovery and tracking of near-Earth asteroids to 100,000 a year within a decade.There are a million asteroids in the Solar System with the potential to strike Earth, they said, but only 10,000 have been discovered.

They also want an Asteroid Day to be adopted on June 30 next year to highlight awareness and promote efforts to prevent an impact.

On that date in 1908, around 800 square miles of forest in Tunguska, Siberia, was destroyed by an asteroid strike. Scientists believe a similar impact now could wipe out an entire city.

Radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55. Credit: ABACA/ABACA/Press Association Images