2012: You Bet Your Asteroid the World Won't End
Niburu! Comet Elenin! Asteroid YU55! It's not the end of the world, really. NASA and Discover's "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait are here to explain why. This panel discussion will take on the Internet factor in the cause and cure of 2012 hysteria. We'll look at how urban legends spread, data gets shared and myths get debunked online. See the web-based tools the Near-Earth Objects office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses to keep an eye on asteroids and comets (and let you know about them), and how the amateur astronomy community is helping in the effort to track low-flying space rocks. The Bad Astronomer himself shares rumor-slaying tales from behind the scenes of his popular blog. The sky isn't falling, but misconceptions are. Join us.
Donald K. Yeomans
Since 1998, the world has turned to Don Yeomans and his team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to calculate the threat of an asteroid or comet hitting Earth. As manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, Don and his team are charged with the responsibility of tracking near-Earth asteroids and comets that could approach our planet. The program is a part of the NASA-sponsored Spaceguard Survey, a coordinated effort to detect, track, and characterize near-Earth objects.
Dr. Yeomans has participated in several space missions that have, among other things, orbited two asteroids, landed upon them and returned a sample from one of them. His team's computations also enabled missions that have flown past, and imaged, several comets and asteroids as well as purposely colliding with a comet on July 4, 2005. Don provided the predictions for the successful recovery of comet Halley on October 16, 1982. He used ancient Chinese observations to help track comet Halley’s motion back more than two millennia thus allowing the discovery of 164 B.C. observations of comet Halley recorded on Babylonian clay tablets in the British Museum.
Don has published more than 150 research papers and three books on comets and asteroids. His new book on near-Earth objects, "Near Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us," is due out in 2012 from Princeton University Press. He has testified before a Congressional Subcommittee and co-authored reports for Congress on near-Earth objects and deflection methods.
Asteroid 2956 was named 2956 YEOMANS to honor his professional achievements.
When he's not keeping an eye on low-flying space rocks, you can find Don playing tennis and collecting early original works on space travel.
Phil Plait is an astronomer who spent ten years working with Hubble Space Telescope data, then suddenly realized he liked talking about astronomy even more. he has written two popular astronomy books (Bad Astronomy, and Death from the Skies!) and writes the award-winning Bad Astronomy blog for Discover Magazine, one of the most popular science blogs in the world. He writes a lot about astronomical conspiracy theories, including doomsday prophecies, which never seem to actually involve an actual doomsday. The 2012 end-of-the-world silliness is yet another in a long line of failed predictions, but its popularity and astronomical connection has Dr. Plait casting a jaundiced eye on it.
Getting people excited about the universe, 140 characters at a time, is what Stephanie does. As a social media specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she holds conversations with the public about the lab's 20+ missions from Voyager to the Mars Science Laboratory. She explains in plain English what's new in space science and engineering (and why it matters).
When not tweeting on behalf of Mars rovers or co-hosting NASASocial (née NASATweetup) events, you'll find her on the hiking trail or the high-ropes course as an Assistant Scoutmaster with Boy Scouts of America. A veteran of the Let's Go Travel Guides, Idealab and Webby- and Peabody-award winning Channel One News, Stephanie is always game for the adventures that make great stories.
Stephanie holds a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard University.
What are the chances you’ll learn of a threatening asteroid via social media? Meet Veronica McGregor (@VeronicaMcG), the human who updates the 800,000+ followers of @AsteroidWatch, NASA’s official Twitter account for distributing updates on near-Earth space rocks. Veronica began on Twitter in 2008 as @MarsPhoenix, tweeting the life and times of the loveable lander on Mars. That account was NASA's first foray into social media and at the time the mission ended it was one of the top 10 accounts on Twitter. Veronica also manages the news and social media office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, overseeing a staff that produces over 400 news items and dozens of videos each year highlighting NASA missions that are monitoring Earth, tracking asteroids, exploring the planets and searching for worlds beyond our solar system. Her group also maintains Twitter and Facebook accounts for @NASAJPL, @MarsCuriosity, @NASAVoyager among others.
In 2009, Veronica organized NASA's first official tweetup at JPL, which became the model for tweetups held at other NASA centers in the U.S. and at other space agencies around the world. She created NASA's first Ustream.tv events as another way to connect the public directly to mission scientists and engineers.
Veronica was awarded a 2009 Shorty Award for her stint as @MarsPhoenix and in 2010 she was named by Forbes.com as one of 20 inspirational women to follow on Twitter. NASA awarded her their Exceptional Achievement Medal for her work in social media on behalf of the agency.