Lecture meeting on 12th August 2024

“Planetary Defence in Wales – Project Drax

Talk by: Jonathan Tate

The Spaceguard Centre near Knighton has spent the past 23 years informing the public, media and decision makers about the impact hazard posed by asteroids and comets (remember the dinosaurs?), and tracking potentially dangerous asteroids that have been found by other programmes.  What we have always needed is an asteroid detection system, and that is what we are developing now, using the largest telescope in Wales, brought here from Cambridge.  This is the story of Project Drax so far.

Speaker biography

For 26 years Jonathan Tate was a serving Army Officer, specialising in surface to air missile systems. In June 1996 Tate submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Defence and the British National Space Centre proposing the establishment of a British National Spaceguard Centre to study the NEO hazard. Scientists worldwide lent their support. The Ministry of Defence dismissed the proposal. Later the Department of Trade and Industry established a Task Force to investigate the threat. The subsequent report validated the hazard, and made significant recommendations for action. Implementation of these recommendations did not happen.

In January 1997 Tate established Spaceguard UK, which became the largest independent Spaceguard organisation in the world. Thanks to the efforts of the members the subject of Spaceguard has been publicly debated in both Houses of Parliament, and Tate has been a regular contributor on television and radio, also in professional and popular journals

Tate is a member of the Board of Directors of the international Spaceguard Foundation, a consultant to the International Astronomical Union Working Group on Near Earth Objects and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is the Director of the Spaceguard Centre in mid-Wales and took over the role of National Near Earth Objects Information Centre in October 2013.

In 2013 Tate was awarded the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement in Planetary Science.

In recognition of his work Asteroid 15116, discovered by the Spacewatch programme in 2000. has been named “Jaytate”.

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