Whew!March 5th, 2009 at 10:37 am by T.J. Del Santo under Weather and Science
We had a close call the other day (on an astronomical scale). We (Earthlings) came pretty darn close to getting hit by an asteroid the size of a ten story building. Scientists are saying that this was the same size of an asteroid that leveled more than 800 square miles of a forest in Siberia back in 1908. It is believed that the Siberian asteroid actually exploded just above the Earth, but still destroyed a huge area in Russia.
I remember when I was little guy and looking through some kids’ encyclopedias my parents got for me. I was always fascinated by space since I was about 8years old. I remember looking through the encyclopedia at the solar system. I remember telling my mother how cool it all was. My mother said, “well, maybe someday you can explore the solar system”. I then remember saying…”no way, not with all those asteroids around”.
I’ve always feared the asteroids. I never even liked the game Asteroids for Atari (mainly because I couldn’t steer my little space ship too well, and I always crashed into an Asteroid).
Anyway, this particular Asteroid, named 2009 DD45 was discovered only a few weeks ago! They knew fairly quickly that this Asteroid would not threaten the Earth. If it had, with such short notice, we probably would not have had enough time to load up a space shuttle with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. Truthfully…it’s pretty scary. We are pretty much sitting ducks right now. We have no defense for something like this.
The government spends millions, if not billions of dollars each year on programs where Near Earth Asteroids are detected. I don’t think that it’s very cool that one this size was missed. It was discovered while it was still a million miles away, but still. What would we have done if it made a direct hit? Nothing. Nothing could be done.
There’s been a lot of talk over the years about launching nuclear weapons into an approaching asteroid. Some have suggested that we could just easily nudge a threatening piece of space rock away from us with a small rocket ship or some other kind of space craft. Obviously obliterating an asteroid with a nuclear weapon would be a good thing because Earth would survive. But…you might lose the signals for your Dish Network, or cell phone or GPS because all the left over debris would surely destroy all the satellites around the Earth. I guess losing all that technology would be a small price to pay. Guiding the asteroid away from Earth is the most popular choice but how do you practice this to be sure?
Now this asteroid passed 48,800 miles from Earth. That seems pretty far away, right? Well, some of our satellites are about 24,000 miles up. So, we only had 24,400 miles to spare. That’s actually not that far on an astronomical scale. An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (where I once worked) was quoted as saying, “This was pretty darn close”. Yuh.
It seems impossible, right now, to know if another asteroid of this size will threaten us anytime soon. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program has said, however, that in 2029 (mark your calendar) an 885 foot asteroid could threaten us…coming within 20,000 miles. By they way, some of our GOES weather satellites are up there at 22,000 miles above the Earth!!!