Archive for the ‘asteroid’ tag
According to a report from The Associated Press, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier came quite close to Earth on Tuesday of this week. It was the closest encounter of that large of an object in more than 30 years.
Here is a snippet from the article:
Its closest approach to Earth was pegged at a distance of 202,000 miles at 6:28 p.m. EST. That’s just inside the moon‘s orbit; the average distance between Earth and the moon is 239,000 miles.
The last time a large cosmic interloper is thought to have come that close to Earth was in 1976, and experts say it is not likely to happen again until 2028.
Scientists at NASA‘s Deep Space Network in the California desert have tracked the quarter-mile-wide asteroid since last week as it approached from the direction of the sun at 29,000 mph. …
If an asteroid that size would hit the planet, Purdue University professor Jay Melosh calculated the consequences. The impact would carve a crater four miles across and 1,700 feet deep. And if it slammed into the ocean, it would trigger 70-foot-high tsunami waves.
Since its discovery six years ago, scientists have been monitoring the spherical, coal-colored asteroid as it slowly spins through space and were confident it posed no danger.
Like its doomsday-foretelling predecessors (The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact and others — here’s an apparent exhaustive list), the new movie 2012 gives us a taste of the end of days, this time via a prophecy that the Sun and Earth align with the center of the galaxy, which, consequently, is an annual occurrence, as NASA reminds us, which happens each December. It’s called the winter solstice.
But we shouldn’t let annoying little scientific facts get in the way of giving us a good scare. Since its initial setting in 1947 at 11:53 p.m., the actual Doomsday Clock, maintained by the The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, has teetered on the brink for half a century, varying between 11:43 p.m.in 1991, when the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and 11:58 p.m. in 1953, when the same two countries tested thermonuclear devices within nine months of each other. Suffice it to say, relations between the U.S. and Russia will probably determine our fate, at least our fate based on international relations. Here’s a graphical look at our past potential dates with destiny:
The movie 2012, however, provides, not an international breakdown, but a cosmic episode on the scale of a gamma ray burst, a black hole eating up the Earth or a comet colliding with Earth that is based on Mayan soothsayers’ opinions on when the world will come to a combustible end. According to an essay in The New York Times, folks are being scared out of their boots by supposed end of days foretellings.
NASA astronomer David Morrison said he’s gotten numerous letters and e-mails from folks wondering how they should prepare for the end.
“I get angry at the way people are being manipulated and frightened to make money,” Dr. Morrison said. “There is no ethical right to frighten children to make a buck [or for any other reason, religion included].”
Dr. Morrison said he had been getting about 20 letters and e-mail messages a day from people as far away as India scared out of their wits. In an e-mail message, he enclosed a sample that included one from a woman wondering if she should kill herself, her daughter and her unborn baby. Another came from a person pondering whether to put her dog to sleep to avoid suffering in 2012.
It’s unclear to me why people are giving so much credibility to prophecies written by ancient people with no more insight into future events — in truth, far less — than you or I. This is a culture which regularly performed human sacrifices and worshiped the Sun, and did both simultaneously, in fact. Four people would hold the human being down on a stone by all fours, while another stabbed the person and pulled out its still-beating heart, so that the sacrificial human got to see its own thumping life in someone else’s hand before the cheering masses. True, the Mayans were highly developed — civilized would be a misnomer — people in their ability to build great structures, but to give any credence whatsoever to a prophecy told under such an archaic belief system is just as arcane. One can only wonder: were these supposed phophecies handed down from the ball of hydrogen gas being worshiped 93 million miles away?
The above essay notes, though there’s not much to be concerned about regarding the year 2012, we still have plenty potential realities to confront, not the least of which are real natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamies and climate change and manmade ones like nuclear proliferation. Although, if we insist on worrying ourselves with some sort of crisis hurling toward us from the cosmos, one might consider learning more about the asteroid Apophis, set to cruise under our satellite orbits, about 22,000 miles from Earth, on Friday the 13th in April 2029. Or, just go see the movie.
Numerous news outlets have now carried the story about the Australian amateur space enthusiast who discovered the “something” that appears to have crashed into Jupiter, leaving a spot on the surface the size of Earth.
Here, you will find many facts about Jupiter, the most interesting to me being that the planet has little or no solid surface. The planet is said to be composed mainly of helium and hydrogen. At the top of the clouds, which vary in color from brown, white, yellow and red, the temperature is somewhere around -230 degrees. In one lower layer of the atmosphere, the temperature warms to a temperate 70 degrees — It’s at this layer where life could exist, scientists think, if at all — and down to the core, which burns at a toasty 43,000 degrees, which is hotter than the sun’s surface.
If there is any possibility of life in that 70-degree zone, it had better be a tough species because Jupiter, for all its color, is a fantastically violent place. Storms, the most prominent of which is called the Great Red Spot — there’s a more recently developed one called Red Spot Jr. — resemble, from our vantage point, hurricanes of gas clouds. And like Earth’s storms, lightning is also present.
As you’ll read in the articles, the impact of the “something:”
… comes almost exactly 15 years after a comet named Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter, ‘sending up blazing fireballs and churning the Jovian atmosphere into dark storms, one of them as large as Earth.’ — The New York Times, July 21, 2009
as reported in this article by The Times in 1994. Obviously, the planet Jupiter was named after the Roman king of the gods. The vote is out whether Jupiter’s tremendous size actually shielded the projectiles from us, but one could say, or speculate, as this Times reader does, that Jupiter has now taken more than one bullet for us:
‘If anything like that had hit the Earth it would have been curtains for us, so we can feel very happy that Jupiter is doing its vacuum-cleaner job and hoovering up all these large pieces before they come for us.’
Should we go back to worshiping Jupitor (sic)? ‘He’ seems to be very protective of us, almost, uh, Godlike? — Ben Daggett
I would add: If anything the size of Earth actually hits Earth, we wouldn’t just be closing the curtains, we would be vaporized. Heck, it would take only a comet the size of a state like Texas (and probably a much smaller one) to pretty well do us in, the likes of which will come dangerously close to us on Friday the 13th, 2029. Named Apophis, the Egyptian god of darkness and destruction, it will be the first asteroid in human history that will be visible to the naked eye. If, on that day at about 4:30 a.m. GMT, it passes through what scientists call a “key hole,” or a perfect, dead center spot, Apophis will strike Earth, no doubt about it, seven years later. Bring all the biblical symbolicism to the table and chew on that one for awhile!