Press Releases

Asteroid Encounter at UCF Set for Feb. 15

ORLANDO, Feb. 1, 2013 – An asteroid, the size of half a city block, will buzz Earth’s surface on Feb. 15, squeezing by communication satellites orbiting the planet.

The University of Central Florida will host a free 1 p.m. event for the public to watch this event via feeds from telescopes in Spain, where it will be nighttime. UCF’s Humberto Campins, an international expert on asteroids who first discovered water ice and organic molecules on asteroids, has gathered three leaders in asteroid research who will give short talks about the real and sensationalized threat these rocky bodies pose. The live feeds will include telescopes at the Astronomical Observatories of Mallorca  and La Sagra, Spain, where asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered.

Confirmed guest speakers include Dr. Michael F. A’Hearn, the scientist who led NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which launched the first man-made object into the nucleus of a comet, and Dr. Harold Reitsema, a planetary scientist who is part of the B612 Foundation’s private effort to launch a telescope that will locate and track asteroids that could hit Earth. Also speaking is UCF Professor Dan Britt, an expert in out-of-this-world rocks. Every NASA rover that’s been sent to Mars, including the current Curiosity Rover, has included equipment Britt designed to help determine the makeup of rocks found on the planet. Campins also will speak and be part of the panel that will answer questions and provide commentary during the flyby. Ray Lugo, the new director of the Florida Space Institute, will moderate the panel.

NASA has identified more than 4,700 asteroids that pose a potential threat to Earth. If one of the larger ones were to collide with the planet, it would be catastrophic. But the odds are that such a collision won’t happen in this lifetime.

“But it has happened and it can happen again,” Campins said. “So as a species it is important we learn all we can about asteroids in case we have to deflect one. And there are other reasons for us to investigate. Asteroids could provide precious resources both to Earth and to space travelers, and they hold secrets to how our planet and life on it formed. That’s why these objects are getting so much attention.”

NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency are working on missions to fly to a nearby asteroid and collect samples. Campins is working on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and the European Space Agency’s MarcoPolo-R missions launching in the next few years.

The presenters promise the event will give attendees plenty of interesting information about asteroids as a precursor to the special viewing. And to keep the event in a festive mood, UCF astronomers also will demonstrate a science experiment that results in an asteroid you can eat.

“We do serious work that is important,” Campins said. “And we also know how to have a little fun.” click here to see a video about the event

Members of the media also are welcomed to attend UCF’s Asteroid Encounter from 1 to 3p.m. Feb. 15. Visit www.cos.ucf.edu/asteroid for details and to register.

 

UCF Plans Asteroid Encounter Feb. 15

ORLANDO, Jan. 29, 2013 — International leaders in asteroid and comet research will converge at the University of Central Florida for a very special asteroid viewing party from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15.

UCF Professor Humberto Campins, who first discovered ice water and organic molecules on an asteroid, has organized the event to help the public understand the real dangers and the hype associated with asteroids. Attendees also will have the opportunity to see asteroid 2012 DA14 buzz by the Earth, coming less than 20,000 miles from the surface. The asteroid, the size of about a city block, will squeeze between the Earth’s surface and the communications satellites orbiting the planet. NASA and private space industry representatives will speak about the flyby, which is the closest to date.

And because scientists know how to have fun, some of UCF physicists also will make an asteroid that you can eat. Click here to hear Campins talk about the dynamic presentation. To check out the speakers and register for the free program click here.

UCF Professor to Speak at International Asteroid Meeting in Paris

ORLANDO, Dec. 11, 2012 — University of Central Florida astrophysicist Humberto Campins in one of a handful of Americans invited to speak at an international space meeting aimed at showing Europeans why space missions to bring back samples from asteroids are vital to our future.

The two-day meeting in Paris runs Dec. 17-18 at the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French agency responsible for shaping and implementing that government’s space policy in Europe. The CNES organized the event and selected its speakers.

Campins, an international expert on asteroids, led a team of scientists who first discovered water ice and organic molecules on an asteroid in 2010. He also is a member of the NASA team now preparing the OSIRIS-REx mission, which will bring back a sample from a nearby asteroid and is scheduled for launch in 2016. Campins also is a member of the MarcoPolo-R mission, which the European Space Agency has approved for further study. The MarcoPolo-R spacecraft could be launched by 2020-22 to return samples from another asteroid. Campins’ research is also contributing to the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission with the same goal in mind.

The purpose of the international workshop in Paris is to discuss the importance of past, current and future missions that involve returning samples to Earth. The raw samples brought back to Earth from asteroids could help scientists understand how the solar system and our planet formed. The information locked away in those samples also could help scientists prepare ways to deflect an asteroid should one ever be found on a collision course with the planet.

“This is a most exciting time in space exploration,” Campins said. “I’m honored to be speaking at this meeting and I believe we can demonstrate the need for missions like MarcoPolo-R and others.”

International Expert Explains Asteroids’ ‘Real’ Threat to Earth

ORLANDO, Nov. 14, 2012 — Join space expert Dr. Humberto Campins at the Orlando Science Center on Saturday, Dec. 1 for a hands-on program that delivers the real story when it comes to asteroids that pass near the earth Earth.

Campins, a physics professor at the University of Central Florida, will also share exciting details about forthcoming NASA and European Space Agency missions that will bring back samples from asteroids.

The two–part program includes an 11 a.m. talk for general audiences followed by an interactive session for children in the Science on the Sphere exhibit on the fourth floor of the museum at 777 E. Princeton St. in Orlando.

“We often hear about Armageddon because an asteroid has been spotted hurtling toward Earth,” Campins said. “There’s a lot of hype, but as individuals we need not worry about it, because it is so unlikely to occur during our lifetime. However, as a civilization we need to be ready because the consequences of an impact could be very severe. That means we need to understand these asteroids so we can deflect one if needed. But that’s just the beginning. They may reveal how early life evolved on Earth.”

Campins headed up the first team that discovered ice on an asteroid in 2010, bolstering the theory that water may have been brought to Earth by asteroids. Campins also is a member of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team, which will launch a space vehicle to capture an asteroid, scoop up a sample and bring it back to Earth. Campins also is on the European Space Agency’s Marco Polo-R team that is targeting a different asteroid and will bring back another sample.

“It’s a very exciting time in space exploration,” Campins said. “And the future is so bright. I want people to know where we are and where we’re going and to inspire children to pursue science and technology so they, too, can explore the stars.”

The special presentations, sponsored by the UCF College of Sciences, coincides with the Orlando Science Center’s Star Wars exhibit, which aims to explore the exciting world of sci-fi and real science. Campins also will offer tips for the best viewing of the Geminid asteroid shower expected to be at its peak Dec. 12-14.

This is one of two events focused on asteroid research coming to the Central Florida area.

UCF and the Florida Space Institute will host an Asteroid Viewing Party on Feb. 15 at UCF’s main campus. It will feature a view of asteroid 2012 DA 14, which is expected to squeeze by Earth and the commercial satellites orbiting the planet.  The public will see the fly-by through exclusive live feeds from telescopes in Spain, including those at La Sagra and Mallorca Astronomical Observatories, where this asteroid was discovered, and also from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries.

Dr. Michael F. A’Hearn, the scientist who led NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which launched the first man-made object into the nucleus of a comet, and Dr. Harold Reitsema, a planetary scientist who is part of the B612 Foundation’s (http://b612foundation.org) private effort to launch a telescope that will locate and track asteroids that could hit Earth, will also speak at that event. The scientists will talk about why asteroid research is so vital to Earth, and the NASA and private efforts to track them.

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Whizzing Asteroid Turns Rocket Scientists’ Heads

ORLANDO, Oct. 31, 2012 — International leaders in asteroid and comet research are gathering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando Friday, Feb. 15, for a special “viewing party” that will climax with asteroid 2012 DA14 zipping between Earth and orbiting communication satellites (within 14,000 miles of Earth).

The asteroid, the size of half a city block, will squeeze between Earth and the geostationary satellites orbiting the planet. It will be the closest fly by in history. See animation here .

Experts agree there is no chance the asteroid will hit Earth — this time. But with more than 4,700 asteroids NASA has identified as potential threats to Earth, some as big as 16 football fields, these objects are getting a lot of attention.

Humberto Campins, a UCF physics professor who led the first team to discover water ice on an asteroid in 2010, says the asteroids provide clues to the early formation of the solar system and should interest the entire community because they can be hazards as well as resources.

Campins is working on NASA and European Space Agency missions launching in the next few years to recover asteroid samples

Should an asteroid be detected on a collision course with Earth, it will be critical to know its composition and structure in order to deflect it. The impact of a small asteroid like DA 14 would equal the destructive power of an atomic bomb. A larger asteroid could be catastrophic.

That’s why Campins and the planetary scientists at UCF organized this free Viewing Party and invited leaders in this asteroid research to speak to the public about the reality and myths of these ancient rocks on Feb. 15. UCF and the Florida Space Institute are sponsoring this event.

Confirmed speakers include Dr. Michael F. A’Hearn, the scientist who led NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which launched the first man-made object into the nucleus of a comet, and Dr. Harold Reitsema, a planetary scientist who is part of the B612 Foundation’s (http://b612foundation.org) private effort to launch a telescope that will locate and track asteroids that could hit Earth. The scientists will talk about why asteroid research is so vital to Earth and the new NASA and private efforts to track them.

The public also will get a chance to see the fly-by through exclusive live feeds from telescopes in Spain, including those at La Sagra and Mallorca Astronomical Observatories, where this asteroid was discovered, and also from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canaries.

Members of the media are invited to attend UCF’s Asteroid Viewing Party from noon to 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 15.  Save the date and visit http://news.cos.ucf.edu beginning Nov. 15 for details and to register.

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Renowned Expert Leads Workshop About Water on Asteroids in Paris

ORLANDO, Sept. 22, 2011 – Humberto Campins, an international expert on asteroids, comets and meteorites, is hosting a workshop about water on asteroids and meteorites in Paris on Sept. 29-30.

The Paris Observatory asked Campins to hold the workshop because he is recognized as an expert in this area. Campins received international attention in 2010 because he found water ice on asteroid 24 Themis and then again later in the same year on 65 Cybele. The discoveries support the theory that water may be more common in the asteroid belt than first thought and that perhaps an asteroid brought Earth the early ingredients for life.

“The presence and distribution of water in asteroids is relevant to the origin and evolution of our Solar System and even of Earth’s own water,” said Campins. “Water is a key ingredient to life as we know it. This is a hot area of research and we expect a good audience at this international workshop.”

Finding water in asteroids and comets is a major focus of research as NASA and the European Space Agency plan and execute trips to recover samples from two asteroids in the next five to seven years through the OSIRIS-REx  and Marco Polo-R missions.

The Paris workshop is scheduled just before the EPSC-DPS Joint meeting in Nantes, France. The meeting brings together the international community of planetary scientists together to present and discuss the latest results of research pertaining to the solar system and other solar systems.

Campins also is launching his own website (humbertocampins.com), which offers research highlights, background information and news on many asteroid-related missions.

“This page is a good source of information and I also speak to groups to explain why this area of research is so important, especially as NASA focuses on more science-related missions.”

Campins has several degrees including a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona. He has earned several awards over the years, including a Fulbright Senior Award, an SAIC Prize for Outstanding Physics and a NASA-Ames Research Center Achievement Award.

His work has made such an impact in the field of planetary sciences that in 1987 the International Astronomical Union named Asteroid 3327 after Campins.

Campins ability to explain complex science in ways that the average person can understand makes him popular with media as well. His expertise has been sought out by the New York Times, the BBC, National Geographic, CNN and, National Public Radio, among others.

When Campins is not traveling the globe conducting research or presenting at conferences he teaches astronomy at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

For information on the Paris workshop or to book Campins as a speaker visit www.humbertocampins.com or email  zghound@aol.com

CONTACT: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala at 407-446-6567 or zghound@aol.com

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European Asteroid Mission Taps U.S. Expertise


ORLANDO, June 17, 2011 — University of Central Florida Professor and international asteroid expert Humberto Campins spent part of June working with more than 100 fellow astrophysicists preparing for a European mission aimed at collecting an asteroid sample and returning it to earth. The Marco Polo-R Mission is a project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA could participate although that determination has not yet been made. The goal is to visit a small primitive asteroid and return an unaltered sample to Earth for analysis in laboratories. The mission is part of the ESA’s Cosmic Vision M3 program and could launch between 2020-2022.The Marco Polo-R mission complements the OSIRIS-REx project , which NASA last month selected for launch as early as 2016. Campins also is participating on the OSIRIS-REx mission, which is led by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona and includes NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Langley Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The samples recovered by these missions could help explain how planets formed, provide information about the origin of organic molecules and life on Earth, and probe the physical structure of an asteroid. Knowing more about the structure of asteroids is important in developing strategies for preventing potentially threatening asteroids from striking earth.

Scientists from around the world converged at the European Space Research Institute near Rome to talk about the Marco Polo-R mission. The two-day workshop covered a range of topics including a review of similar missions, instrumentation needs, ground-based studies, astrobiology and laboratory analysis.

The Italian Space Agency, Rome Astronomical Observatory and Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory also supported the event.