[Press and Public Relations] Leicester Joins Battle to Save Planet!

February 2002

No 30

If the threat posed to the earth by asteroids and comets, otherwise known as NEOs (near earth objects), becomes reality, it will be University of Leicester rather than Bruce Willis who will be in the frontline, fighting for the safety of the planet!

In Easter 2002 a government-backed facility, the first of its kind, will open at the National Space Centre in Leicester to provide the general public with information on the perennial threat of NEOs.

The issue has sprung to national attention in recent months with 2001 YB5 asteroid passing the earth by the relatively small distance of 830 000km on January 7th 2002, having only been discovered by satellites a month previously.

Professor Ken Pounds, head of the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy, which is directly linked to the specialist Space Science Research Unit (SSRU) wing of the National Space Centre, describes the University's role in the establishing of this new facility as "fundamental".

He said: "The University manages the SSRU, providing offices, satellite suites and professional backing for the staff at Abbey Meadow. This make projects such the information centre for NEOs possible.

Explaining the reasoning behind the centre, Professor Pounds echoed the sentiments of Science Minister Lord Sainsbury saying: "A number of issues including CJD, BSE and Foot and Mouth concern the public. It was felt that it was time that more was done to provide information about the threat of NEOs".

It is believed that the new facility, based at the widely visited space attraction at Abbey Meadow, which was co-founded by the University of Leicester, coupled with the National Space Centre website would allay public fears and provide accurate information on this topic of global concern.

It will be backed by 300,000 over three years from government funds and experts will assess the risks of any potentially hazardous objects. Joining scientists from the University of Leicester will be colleagues from the Natural History Museum, Queen's University, Belfast, Queen's Mary College, London and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.

         For more information on the National Space Centre, the threat of NEOs or the university's role in other groundbreaking projects, access the National Space Centre's website on www.nssc.co.uk or go to www.nearearthobjects.com

         More information about the Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester on www.le.ac.uk/physics or www.star.le.ac.uk

  NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact Professor Ken Pounds, Physics and Astronomy, 0116 252 3574.


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Last updated: 28 January 2002 10:30
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