Queen Guitarist Brian May Warns of Asteroids

Courtesy of David Levene/Guardian
Courtesy of David Levene/Guardian

Dr. Brian May, lead guitarist for Queen and noted astrophysicist, is working to raise awareness about the threat of asteroids to humanity. At a news conference this week held via satellite in London and Los Angeles, he warned that Earth is headed for mass destruction and insisted that global action must be taken.

He has now joined a group of prominent artists, astronomers, and scientists who hope to save the planet, such as Bill Nye (the science guy), ethologist Richard Dawkins, and former astronaut Ed Lu, who has flown on three trips to the International Space Station. On Wednesday, they released a “100X Asteroid Declaration,” which calls for the creation of a massive asteroid detection system.

Their plan urges governments and philanthropic organizations to fund the system, which would begin tracking near-Earth asteroids ten times faster than our current rate. The group believes such a system would “solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future.”

Additionally, they are pushing for an Asteroid Day to be observed on June 30th, 2015. The date was chosen in recognition of Earth’s last major asteroid occurrence, which took place on June 30th, 1908. The impact flattened 800 square miles near Tunguska, Siberia.

“The more we learn about asteroid impacts, the clearer it becomes that the human race has been living on borrowed time,” said Dr. May. “We are currently aware of less than one percent of objects comparable to the one that impacted at Tunguska, and nobody knows when the next big one will hit. It takes just one.”

He went on to describe an alarming scenario. “If [Tunguska] had taken place 6 1/2 hours later, Berlin would have rotated into the object’s path, and that would have utterly changed the course of human civilization.”

Although we already have tech systems in place to detect large asteroids, the group says there should be a greater focus on smaller rocks as well. “NASA has done a very good job of finding the very largest objects, the ones that would destroy the human race,” said Lu. “It’s the ones that would destroy a city or hit the economy for a couple of hundred years that are the problem.”

Several musicians have backed their declaration, including singer Peter Gabriel, Brian Burton of Danger Mouse, and James Mercer of Broken Bells. Other notable signatories include Google executive Alan Eustace, British astronomer Martin Rees, and Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell.