Alan Fitzsimmons

Alan Fitzsimmons is a Professor of Astronomy at Queen’s University Belfast. He studies the small bodies in our Solar system, including measuring the properties of hundreds of thousands of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, and the chemical compositions of comets. Highlights of his career have included explaining the effects on Jupiter caused by the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994, observing the first small asteroid predicted to collide with the earth in 2008, and characterising the first interstellar visitors discovered in our Solar system in 2017 and 2019. A member of the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) project, and a core team member of the ESA Hera planetary defence mission, asteroid (4985) Fitzsimmons was named in recognition of his work.

How to move an asteroid: the Hera Mission
Saturday 1st February 2020: Session Three

We know for sure that, sometime in the future, we will detect a Near-Earth Asteroid or Comet that will eventually hit the Earth. While we have become very good at discovering these objects and measuring their properties, we have yet to test if we could prevent an impact. In the next 8 years we will use the ESA Hera and NASA DART spacecraft to make the first experiment in changing the path of a small asteroid. This talk will explain what we will do at asteroid Didymos and how that information will be used to safeguard Earth.

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