Asteroids


We have good news for the ones that were already imagining Armageddon-like scenarios. The visiting Asteroid 2007 TU24 will travel relatively close to Earth tonight, but it will not hit our planet. However, the space object will offer a rare opportunity for both scientists and amateurs.

Asteroid 2007 TU24 is a relatively small asteroid, as it is somewhere between 500 feet (150 meters) and 2,000 feet (610 meters) long and it has been first seen in October 2007. Space scientists said that on Tuesday night at 3:33 a.m., it would pass Earth outside the Moon’s orbit at a distance of about 334,000 miles (537,500 km). So, there is no chance Asteroid 2007 TU24 could hit our planet.

Asteroid 2007 TU24 is just one of an estimated number of 7,000 so-called near-Earth objects. Space objects similar to TU24 frequently pass near our planet, but such advance notice as with TU24 is quite rare. Still, astronomers don’t know anything about it, as Mike Nolan, head of radar astronomy at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico admitted in a statement.

“We have good images of a couple dozen objects like this, and for about one in 10, we see something we’ve never seen before. […] We really haven’t sampled the population enough to know what’s out there,” Mike Nolan also said.

Via eNews 2.0.

Apparently the UN, and some lawyers and insurance agents, will decide who will be in charge if an asteroid hits the Earth:

A draft UN treaty to determine what would have to be done if a giant asteroid was on a collision course with Earth is to be drawn up this year.

The document would set out global policies including who should be in charge of plans to deflect any object.

It is the brainchild of the Association of Space Explorers, a professional body for astronauts and cosmonauts.

At the moment, Nasa is monitoring 127 near-Earth objects (NEO) that have a possibility of hitting the Earth.

The association has asked a group of scientists, lawyers, diplomats and insurance experts to draw up the recommendations.

See full article here.

ABC’s Last Days on Earth, which aired last night as a special edition of 20/20, galloped through seven scenarios for the end of the world, aided by Al Gore and a gaggle of prominent scientists (including the ebullient American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), and punctuated with earnest vox poppery and some rather stilted, angular commentary from Stephen Hawking.

And according to ABC, the nominees for the most likely end-of-world scenario are:

  1. A gamma ray burst or black hole;
  2. Artificial Intelligence on the loose;
  3. A supervolcano;
  4. The Earth getting hit by an asteroid;
  5. Nuclear annihilation;
  6. A natural or bioterrorist pandemic; and
  7. Global warming, also known as that thing Al Gore’s always talking about.

See more hype here.

During interludes in the discussion, average folks talked about what they would do with the rest of their lives if they knew the exact time and date of the end of the world.

Feel free to submit your own ideas in the comment section of this post.

In most circumstances, 432,000km is a long, long way. But not when that figure is the distance between a large mass of fast-moving rock and planet Earth. The number in question comes from a “near miss” that happened earlier this month, when the asteroid named XP14 passed us at 17km per second.

To put it another way, it came within 1.1 times the moon’s average distance from the Earth, close enough to be officially classified as a potentially hazardous Near Earth Object (NEO), along with some 782 known others. With an estimated diameter of up to 800 metres, had XP14 hit Earth it could have wiped out a small country.

This article in The Independent gives a good run-down of current thinking on asteroids, along with a timeline of several significant collision’s in Earth’s history.

Lots of giant rocks flying around, but the end is not in sight yet, according to NASA.