Meeting Information

Collisions in Space: The Threat of Asteroid Impacts

September 17, 2014
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Dr. Melissa Hayes-GehrkeDate: Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Speaker: Dr. Melissa Hayes-Gehrke, University of Maryland

Topic: Collisions in Space: The Threat of Asteroid Impacts

Time and Location: 1:00 PM, with Q&A to follow; in a 1st floor conference room at the American Center for Physics (, 1 Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD - off River Rd., between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: An asteroid impact is an astronomical threat that could become reality. The Earth and other planets have been impacted by asteroids in the past, with several specific impacts providing key information to scientists. The Chelyabinsk airburst of February 2013 was observed by an unprecedented number of people, as I will discuss in my talk.

While it is likely that millions of asteroids exist in the main asteroid belt, the thousands that orbit in the inner solar system are the greatest threat to impact the Earth. As I will describe, astronomers are searching for these asteroids, but the search is far from complete. If an asteroid is discovered to be on a course to impact the Earth, scientists have explored several possible techniques for preventing the impact, although none have been tested yet on the necessary scale. I will discuss the most plausible strategies.

Biography: Dr. Melissa N. Hayes-Gehrke developed a love of the stars and astronomy as a child in rural Pennsylvania. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Physics and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. She received her doctorate in Astronomy from Boston University in 2004. Since that time, she has been an instructor at the University of Maryland, specializing in teaching astronomy to non-science majors, as Senior Lecturer. She has developed two new and innovative courses for non-science majors that focus on observing asteroids and the threat of asteroid impacts.