Thursday, January 26, 2012

We're All Gonna ... Nevermind: Jan. 26, 2012 Edition

Caption: Not today, nor tomorrow.

Image credit: Screenshot of television series Faces Of Earth by Cujo359

There's another one that's not quite going to hit us, as explains:
A small asteroid will make an extremely close pass by Earth Friday (Jan. 27), coming much nearer than the moon, but the space rock poses no danger of impacting our planet, NASA scientists say.

The newfound asteroid 2012 BX34, which is about the size of a city bus, will pass within 36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of Earth at about 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Friday, astronomers with NASA's Asteroid Watch program announced[.]
We dodged another one.

Caption: A screenshot of the video of asteroid 2012 BX34's path over the next few days. How far is 7.0E-4 astronomical units? Not far enough, that's for sure.

Image credit: Screenshot of the video by Cujo359

As with the last bus-sized bit of bad I wrote about, the experts think that even if this thing had been headed for a landing here on Earth, it would have burned up in the atmosphere.

So why write about it?

One day, one of these things won't be a near miss. If they're a little bigger, say a few times the mass of this one, it won't burn up in the atmosphere. It will put something like this in some part of the Earth's surface, or it will produce a lot of atmospheric disturbance and tidal waves on its way to the bottom of the ocean. Right now, there's not a damn thing we can do about that.

No, correct that last sentence - there's nothing we seem to want to do about that.

I'd say this is one of three more-or-less preventable things that could destroy life as we know it here, and about which we're not doing anywhere near enough. The other two are climate change and nuclear proliferation. Ironically, all three would kill us off in the same way - by altering our climate so radically that no human could survive.

Yes, I know, only little girlie men worry about stuff like this. Like for instance, Rusty Schweickart, who never did anything more courageous than riding a 360 foot-tall pile of explosives into Earth orbit and back. Here's what he has to say on the issue:
"We have the capability — physically, technically — to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts," said former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, chairman of the B612 Foundation, a group dedicated to predicting and preventing catastrophic asteroid strikes. "We are now able to very slightly and subtly reshape the solar system in order to enhance human survival."

Deflecting Killer Asteroids Away From Earth: How We Could Do It
Yes, we are able to, but as with so many other forms of disaster prevention or preparation, we just seem to come up with all sorts of excuses for not doing it. Technologically, moving asteroids the size of the one that made Meteor Crater is nothing but an expensive and time-consuming engineering problem. As that article states, there are ways of dealing with them. Given enough time, even far larger asteroids can be deflected.

But most people would rather trust their deities to prevent this, I suppose.

Perhaps it's just an evolutionary test. Any species smart enough to prevent something like this from happening, but too stupid to try, isn't smart enough to survive.

UPDATE: Oops. Forgot the link to the first article. It's there now.

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