Action being taken by the UK government, the United Nations and the European
Space Agency to further our understanding of the hazard posed by near Earth
objects (NEOs) in space are on the agenda at Royal Astronomical Society
meetings in London on Friday 14 December. The meetings are open and media
representatives are cordially invited. (For details of times and locations
see below.)

Dr Colin Hicks, Director of the British National Space Centre, will talk
about the UK government’s policy on NEOs. In 2000, the UK government set up
a Task Force to consider the threat from potentially-hazardous NEOs. Its
detailed report (available on-line at
made 14 recommendations for government action.

Dr Hans Haubold, Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs in
Vienna, will discuss the past and future involvement of the United Nations.
The NEO hazard is a global problem, requiring international as well as
national responses. The first step is to map the orbits of the larger
asteroids in the solar system. This can be done using quite modest
telescopes, so smaller countries can make vital contributions.

Dr Marcello Coradini, Coordinator of Solar System Missions at the European
Space Agency’s headquarters in Paris, will explain ESA’s plans for space
missions to study the physical nature of asteroids and comets. NASA already
has several such spacecraft either on the way or planned for launch within
the next few years. ESA’s Rosetta mission, the first designed to go into
orbit around a comet, is scheduled for launch in 2003.

Other contributors will describe how UK astronomers and space researchers
plan to become involved with the international Spaceguard programme, how the
NEO impact hazard ranks against other large-scale potential disasters (such
as nuclear power station accidents), and how the media deal with this topic.

Meeting co-organiser, Dr Duncan Steel said, ” This is astronomy ‘close to
home’. Only recently has the importance of comets and asteroids to our own
planet been recognised. But quite apart from potential impact catastrophes,
NEOs are worlds in their own right. Studying them is becoming a central
feature of solar system exploration. The next few years promise a wealth of
interesting information on asteroids and comets.”


HOUSE, Piccadilly, London W1

10:30 Introductory comments and overview: Duncan Steel

10:45 Alan Fitzsimmons (Queen’s University, Belfast)
Observing NEOs with UK-supported ground-based telescopes

11:10 Peter Wheatley (University of Leicester)
NEOs in the UK Wide-field Automated Survey Programe (WASP)

11:25 John Zarnecki (Open University)
NEO-related Research at the Open University

11:45 Sarah Dunkin (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)
Inner-Earth NEO searches using BepiColombo

12:00 Wyn Evans (University of Oxford)
GAIA: A Census of the Solar System

12:20 Phil Palmer (University of Surrey)
Research at Surrey University for a NEO mission: Affordable Access for
Science in Space

12:40 Apostolos Christou (Armagh Observatory)
Nearer than the Moon: dynamics and future opportunities for NEO missions

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 Nigel Holloway (Spaceguard UK)
NEO Impacts: Risk Perceptions and Realities

14:20 Benny Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University)
Asteroid Scares: Near-Earth Objects and the Media

14:35 Iain Gilmour (Open University)
The ESF-Impact programme: current objectives and future directions

14:55 Colin Hicks (Director, British National Space Centre)
Government Policy and Future Plans on NEOs

15:20 Concluding remarks: Mark Bailey

15:30 – 16:00 Break and CHANGE OF VENUE

16:00 – 18:00 RAS monthly Astronomy and Geophysics meeting
(entrance in New Burlington Place)

approx. 17.15 Hans Haubold (Director, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs,
Vienna) United Nations Initiatives on NEOs

approx. 17. 35 Marcello Coradini (Coordinator, Solar System Missions, ESA)
ESA’s contribution to the understanding of NEOs and their related


For comment, general information about the meetings, or to get in touch with
individual speakers, contact the meeting organisers:

Dr Duncan Steel

Joule Physics Laboratory

University of Salford

Greater Manchester, M5 4WT

Phone: 0161 295 3981

Fax: 0161 295 5147


Mobile phone contact for Thursday and Friday: 07967 949 342

Professor Mark Bailey

Armagh Observatory

College Hill

Armagh BT61 9DG,

Phone: 028 3752 2928

Fax: 028 3752 7174


Mobile phone contact for Thursday and Friday: 07765 256 346