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Rubble Piles in the Sky: The Science, Exploration, and Danger of Near-Earth Asteroids

Free astronomy talk

Smithwick Theatre

April 18, 2018

7 p.m.


Archive Story


Dr. Michael Busch, of the SETI Institute, will give a free, illustrated, non-technical talk on "Rubble Piles in the Sky: The Science, Exploration, and Danger of Near-Earth Asteroids."

The talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series at Foothill College, now in its 18th year.

Near-Earth asteroids are a population of small bodies whose orbits around the Sun cross or come near our planet’s orbit. They turn out to be unusual physical environments: rubble piles, with shapes and spins determined by effects like the pressure of the sun's radiation. Near-Earth asteroids are also accessible targets for spacecraft missions. And they represent a natural hazard we ignore at our peril because some of these bodies have the potential to impact Earth. Dr. Busch will review the near-Earth population, programs to track and characterize as many near-Earth asteroids as possible, and current efforts to address the danger of asteroid impacts.

Michael Busch is a planetary astronomer based at the SETI Institute in Mountain View. His research focuses on characterizing near-Earth asteroid shapes, spins, and motions using radar and radio techniques. He obtained his Ph.D. in planetary science at Caltech and worked as a postdoc at UCLA and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory before starting as a research scientist at SETI in 2013.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos. For directions and parking information, see:

For a campus map, see:

The lecture is co-sponsored by:

* The Foothill College Astronomy Program

* The SETI Institute

* The Astronomical Society of the Pacific

* NASA's Ames Research Center.

We get large crowds for these talks, so we ask people to try to arrive a little bit early to find parking. The lecture is free, but there is a charge of $3 for parking on campus and exact change is appreciated.

Past lectures in the series can be found on YouTube at