“The Spaceguard Centre”

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Presented on ZOOM 12th September at 7pm



The Earth has a long and violent history of collisions with extraterrestrial bodies such as asteroids and comets.  Several of these impacts have been large enough to cause huge environmental upheavals, causing mass extinctions and severe changes to global climate and geography.  Many smaller strikes, though not globally threatening, have caused enormous damage, often at considerable distance.

Massively more destructive than a global nuclear war, this is the hazard that is most likely to precipitate the end of our technology based civilisation, but asteroid and comet impacts are the only natural catastrophes that we can predict and prevent.  They are also the only ones that can put every member of the species at immediate risk.

However, despite the global scientific consensus on the nature and gravity of this threat, there is currently no co-ordinated international response.

In his talk Jay will discuss the nature and extent of the Near Earth Object (NEO) hazard, how it can be dealt with, and give an up to date analysis of what is currently being done about it.



Jonathan Tate was a serving Army Officer for 26 years, specialising in surface to air missile systems. He served in UK, Germany and Canada, but also worked in many other countries. His activities concerning the impact hazard were undertaken in a totally private capacity without the sanction or support of the Ministry of Defence.

In June 1996 Tate submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Defence and the British National Space Centre proposing the establishment of a British National Spaceguard Centre to study the threat posed to the UK by the impact of an asteroid or comet. Scientists worldwide lent their support, including Dr Arthur C Clarke, Dr Gene Shoemaker, Professor Edward Teller and many others. The Ministry of Defence dismissed the proposal, but the Department of Trade and Industry later decided that further study is appropriate and established a Task Force to investigate the threat. The subsequent report validated the hazard, and made significant recommendations for action. Implementation of these recommendations did not happen.

In January 1997 Tate established Spaceguard UK, which is now the largest independent Spaceguard organisation in the world. Thanks to the efforts of the members the subject of Spaceguard has been publicly debated in both Houses of Parliament, and Tate has been a regular contributor on television and radio, also in professional and popular journals. Tate and other members of Spaceguard UK advised the government Task Force on NEOs.

Tate is a member of the Board of Directors of the international Spaceguard Foundation, a consultant to the International Astronomical Union Working Group on Near Earth Objects, an associate of COSPAR, the vice-president of the Space Development Council and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is the Director of the Spaceguard Centre at the former Powys County Observatory in mid-Wales, the co-ordinator of the Comet and Asteroid Information Network (CAIN) and leads the International Spaceguard Information Centre. The Spaceguard Centre has become a leading focus for public outreach and education in all matters astronomical.

In recognition of his work Asteroid 15116, discovered by the Spacewatch programme in 2000 has been named “Jaytate”.





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