On June 2nd of 2018, a six-foot-wide asteroid entered the atmosphere over Botswana, creating a bright fireball that lit up the night sky.

Astronomers spotted the small incoming object just eight hours before it hit Earth's atmosphere. The meteor show was caught by a security camera.

Detecting an asteroid requires a community of dedicated researchers, from amateur astronomers to NASA professionals.

In this episode of Here’s an Idea™, we talk with NASA's Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson, Dr. Bruce Betts of the Planetary Society, and astrophysicist Mike Owens, about working together to detect and deflect these potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs).

Listen to the episode below, and subscribe here.

Episode Highlights:

  • We speak with Lindley Johnson, who might have one of the coolest sounding job titles: Planetary Defense Officer. Read the full interview with Johnson.
  • Dr. Bruce Betts, Chief Scientist at the Planetary Society, talks about the teamwork that goes into finding asteroids. NASA and other international agencies work together, but much of the effort relies upon individual astronomers. The Planetary Society funds these efforts. One amateur observer, Robert Holmes, turned into a full-time asteroid-hunting NASA professional.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have an idea to deflect the Earth-bound asteroid: a 9-meter-tall, 8.8-ton spacecraft dubbed the HAMMER. We speak with LLNL astrophysicist Mike Owens about the HAMMER and other deflection options.
Robert Holmes with his 1.3-meter telescope. (Image Credit: Planetary Society)