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"DART and Hera: Moving an Asteroid"


By Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons, Queen's University, July 8th


Over the past few decades, our knowledge of how to handle the threat posed by Near-Earth Objects has increased enormously. Astronomers are finding over 150 new NEOs per month. We understand the gross characteristics of that population; how many there are, what they are made of, their overall structure and how their orbits change. Now the final stage of threat assessment is under way. In three years time, humanity will test whether it can move a small asteroid. The NASA DART and ESA Hera missions are the first planetary experiment to significantly change the path of a celestial body.  This talk will describe the background to the missions, the preparations happening this year, and what we hope to accomplish in 2022-2026



Photo: Alan Fitzsimmons


I am an astronomer in the QUB Astrophysics Research Centre  and a member of the Solar System Group . My primary research interests are in performing observations of minor bodies in our solar system, comets and asteroids. These studies are generally based on observations performed on the UK supported telescopes in the Canary Islands ( ING ) and Chile ( ESO ), although for the past few years I've also been looking at the firehose of data from Pan-STARRS 1 . For an idea of what these telescopes look like, here's a picture of me standing nervously under the ESO Very Large Telescope .

My "official" University stats page is here , but in summary I work with a bunch of great people on the following  projects:

  • UK Pan-STARRS Science Consortium - Making sense of 10's of millions of asteroid detections.
  • UK LSST Consortium -We will see lots of NEOs and other stuff.
  • ISSI Oumuamua Team -Trying to come up with our best summary of the first alien object seen in our Solar system.
  • ATLAS -Helping spot new objects, and working on hundreds of thousands of known ones.
  • HE RA - Taking Planetary Defence from the theoretical to the practical.

I also enjoyed working on these projects:






After the lecture there will be a social reception in The Lombard Inn and we encourage all of you to come along for a chat.

All are welcome to attend and free food will be kindly provided by The Lombard.

Keep up to date on our Facebook and Twitter sites - links on the left.

A prize draw will be held after the lecture.

Booking Information

Date Monday 8th July
Time 8:00p.m.

Physics Bldg, Physics Department , Fitzgerald Building, Trinity College Dublin.
There is an entrance on Lincoln Place (not far from the Merrion Square end of TCD). If you get the DART or bus to Pearse St, or drive. Use the Science Gallery entrance on Pearse Street (near the corner with Westland Row) There are maps here:  Here

Parking: Mark Street , Marks Lane , Lombard St. East .

Free Parking on the above streets after 7pm
Click HERE for a building map of Trinity College campus
Click HERE for Map of area

Admission €10 (€5 Astronomy Ireland members and concessions)
Tickets where possible should be booked in advance. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the night, please come along 15 minutes early to accommodate.

Book online below

Call 086 06 46 555 to book tickets over the phone using Debit/ Credit Card
Send a cheque, Postal Order, or Draft, made payable to Astronomy Ireland, to: P.O. BOX 2888, Dublin 5.


This lecture is also available to people nationwide (32 counties) on DVD.
To order a copy of the DVD simply:
Order by credit or debit card online below, OR
call 086 06 46 555
Alternatively post a Cheque, postal order, or Draft to: Astronomy Ireland, P.O. Box 2888, Dublin 5.
Price: DVD's cost €10 each incl P&P (€5 Astronomy Ireland members)

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Acknowledgment: Astronomy Ireland would like to thank the TCD Astrophysics Research Group for hosting Astronomy Ireland public lectures in Trinity College Dublin









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