NEOShield-2 Event in Nepal, Remembering the Chelyabinsk Event

Reported by Sushil Bhattarai, Kathmandu, Nepal

We all are Homo sapiens species. Human beings most relay on one affair with a common voice, “sharing is caring,” and so we care about each other. We successfully completed the task of delivering the world’s biggest technical issue about “Asteroids”. Credit goes to all of school members and international persons who profoundly helped to complete the first NEOShield-2 activity in Nepal. I believe it was a challenging task to introduce all about asteroids that hold some story from history of impacts to upcoming possible threats in a smooth way. Seriously, they were school level kids; at such age level, they are sensitive enough to create a terrible fear inside, psychologically. Therefore, it is a critical task to provide them both the information about NEOs threats and its mitigation measures simultaneously. Staffs, students, and teachers were visiting the event, so altogether over 200 members from the school got the chance to know more about the topic. The regular participants from starting to the end were the students from grade 5 to grade 10. The venue was Mokshada School’s main hall, 2017 Feb. 15.

Background and Motivation

I am physics student and a science educator too. I had also done a similar project related to NEOs observing impact and flash in the lunar surface at B.P Koirala Memorial Planetorium, Nagarkot in 2014, using the largest government telescope in Nepal. In 2015, I organized one-month long event to detect some asteroids using the official software called Astrometrica with my students during a research sponsored by IASC, an asteroid hunt, from Nepal. I am always motivated that I have decided to go into depth of physics and astronomy forever. I love to work with public and in-group so I have been working cooperatively involved in various national and international organizations for years.

Preparations

I got help from many people to this event. Those helps were from the NEOShield-2 Team, the people from the school organization and everyone who had played a crucial role to complete this event smoothly, I appreciate, and this is for the future and wellbeing of the humanity.

Before NEOShield-2 Presentation

It was the beginning of the introduction session about “Asteroids”. Students in the hall were actually already familiar with the name “Asteroids” because they have lived some years of their life somewhere inside the realm of internet and technology. It was so cute that some students said Asteroids are like a stone or rocks that are in the sky; really, Asteroids are in the sky, but how about space! Space is a far thing they could imagine. The happiest moments exploded, literally like meteors shower inside the presentation hall when they said they were already familiar to some name like Comets, Meteors, and again Asteroids. Some students from grade 8, 9, and 10 were even richer with knowledge about “Asteroid Belt” and “Kuiper belt.” It was unbelievable that some of the students suggested us to use thousands of bullets that we could target and destroy the incoming Asteroids. I was laughing from inside but hardly I controlled, what I did just listened to them for about 2 minutes. After a lecture about speed and the size of the Asteroids they got more information about the killer asteroids. Indeed, students came to know that every country need to unite against asteroids otherwise we are nothing in front of such giants.

NEOShield-2 Agent Nepal Sushil Bhattarai

Students happy to get some extra information materials provided by NEOShield-2

Wonderful theatre

All kids are happy to go to theatre, and that is even cooler when it is inside their own school. On 15 Feb. 2017 for about 2 and half hours they were happy to not have to only read their bulky books. It was a new day, straight marching from the school assembly into theatre, happy in the hall.

NEOShield-2 Agent Nepal Sushil Bhattarai

NEOShield-2 Agent Sushil Bhattarai in front of the students while getting prepared in the theatre

NEOShield-2 Slide Presentation

It was a silent moment when students saw the slide containing report from February 7, 2017 ESA’s NEOCC lists: 15,622 NEAs, 3,449 comets, and 598 NEOs are potentially in the ‘risk list’. Some of the pictures and event videos showed at the presentation about the small asteroids that disintegrated in the earth’s atmospheres since 1994 to 2013 made our students picked up to eye opened.  Later some slides contained mitigation measures from asteroid impact was somewhat a relieved from inside that I could easily see from some students.

NEOShield-2 Agent Nepal Sushil Bhattarai

Sushil demonstrating actual size of the solar system and some asteroids

NEOShield-2 Agent Nepal Sushil Bhattarai

NEOShield-2 agent Sushil giving a Powerpoint presentation about mitigating measures from NEOs

Program featured

We know these kids are learning about space and asteroids, so they need to build some basic background knowledge about actual size of the solar system and its comparative study with the size of planets. In addition, the topic like planetary formation was also introduced with illustrating pictures and videos before the actual program starts. Here are some features and achievements of the event:

  1. Scale of solar system and the planet Pluto (a video documentary show);
  2. Q&A session about the previous video;
  3. Brief Asteroid Introduction: composition, size, velocity and its energy released when it strikes our planet (a video presentation);
  4. NEOShield-2 content material presentation in brief (a slide show);
  5. A compiled video documentary show about “Chelyabinsk shockwaves.” To make them realize the energy of shockwave generated by asteroid during its entry;
  6. “A brief introduction about how asteroid really had killed the dinosaurs.” Physics behind the scene;
  7. “Recreating asteroid strike that killed dinosaurs.” A lab experimental video by NASA;
  8. “Impact records from 2000 to 2013” demography was displayed so that students could figure out it is almost a daily incidents. Just bigger asteroids are dangerous;
  9. A quick overview of the mitigation measures, NEOShield-2, Civil defense and social awareness;
  10. Lastly, a discussion session. Students and teachers asked various curious and interesting questions raised in front me to answer.

Future Events and Motivation

Actually their innocence and frequent questions triggered to boost motivational level to some higher. Some of the questions were like: how the rocket and satellite move in the space? Why will not they fall into earth due to gravity? In addition, at the end of the event they asked me to describe some details about how could a single asteroid become a deadly weapon to wipeout our planet Earth. This session lasted longer period. I was not feeling tired of giving answers to them because the questions were so important that they deserved to listen to all the answers. This is a great idea of understanding the child psychology too, it can help to answer how the children of certain country are taking the science of Near-Earth Asteroids; we can understand them and such kind of public events are needed to be held in a similar way or even better in the future. But it is not enough; there are several hundred thousand of students lying in the remote part of the country. I am afraid if a real asteroid comes to destroy our planet and the news broadcasts does not satisfy the children’s queries, how they would be affected psychologically before the asteroid hit the planet. They will be killing themselves inside due to fear of asteroids before the real asteroid touch the atmosphere of the Earth.

NEOShield-2 Agent Nepal Sushil Bhattarai

Students paying great attention to information about Asteroids crawling in the vast space

 

NEOShield-2 Note:

The NEOShield-2 team is very glad to have Sushil as our new Agent in Nepal. We congratulate him for all his effort and great initiative of teaching all these students about asteroids, asteroids impact threat and mitigation measures. We hope to see and post more activities like this one in the close future.

Are you also interested in becoming a NEOShield-2 Agent and help us to spread awareness about an asteroid impact threat? Check more information here.

About the author: VR