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Planetary defense: definition and how to communicate to the public

Grant number: 21/11175-2
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2021
Effective date (End): November 30, 2022
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Geosciences
Principal Investigator:Alvaro Penteado Crósta
Grantee:Maria Eduarda Teodoro Mistro
Host Institution: Instituto de Geociências (IG). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


Asteroids have inhabited the Solar System since its formation and some may pose risks to life on Earth due to the possibility of collision with our planet. The most emblematic case of impact with significant implications for life is the asteroid that hit the Earth 66 million years ago, forming the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the extinction of about 75% of all forms of Earth's life, including the dinosaurs. But despite this and other various events that continue to occur on smaller scales, this topic is rarely addressed in science, especially in Brazil. When approached by the press, it is usually from an alarmist and unfounded perspective. This research aims to analyze the major events of recorded meteoritic impacts, as well as to reflect on ways to disclose them to society. Within the scope of Planetary Sciences and Earth Sciences, this theme is treated under the perspective of Planetary Defense. In addition to seeking ways to defend the Earth from an eventual cosmic impact in the future, one of the main objectives of this branch of science is to make the population aware of its characteristics, frequency of occurrence and its risks and consequences. In this project, we intend to focus on the theme based on concepts and techniques employed by scientific journalism. Thus, we will seek forms and languages that are able to convey the facts surrounding meteoritic impacts so that they are understood by the population, that in turn may give the necessary attention to them, avoiding any episodes of misinformation and/or panic. For this, a semi-quantitative methodology will be used, analyzing the cosmic bodies that may strike the Earth, such as asteroids and comet, through the simulation of large impact events and detailing the physical phenomena resulting from encounters between these objects and the Earth. Measures to protect the planet will also be analyzed and how large institutions such as NASA (National Space Agency, of the United States) and ESA (European Space Agency, of the European Community) have contributed with research and equipment for planetary defense. It is also intended to develop, through structured interviews, qualitative research on society's perception of the potential risks of impacts from celestial bodies against the Earth. Finally, it is planned to use the results of this research in the preparation of activity to mark the International Asteroid Day 2022, celebrated annually on June 30, under the aegis of the UN, the Asteroid Foundation and B612 Foundation, as well as the Planetary Society. Expected results include the promotion of debate on planetary defense and socialization of scientific knowledge of this topic for the entire society. (AU)

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