When we started the Tavern custom of raising a toast to every passing asteroid, it was a rare occurrence; now I'm getting seriously worried that the Righteous will be calling round to discuss our 'drinking problem'.
Tonight's cause for revelry, 2013 ET, will be passing by a sedate 600,000 miles away at the undeniably convenient time of around 8.30pm on a Saturday night - a distinct improvement on 3013 EC on Monday, which inconsiderately arrived for UK residents at a time more suited to fruit juice and coffee.
Both of these, like many others we have seen recently, are worryingly recent discoveries; it's a chilling reminder that, if there is one out there with our name on it, there may not be much time for heroic efforts - or mass panic, depending on the degree of cynicism with which you view your fellow-man.
There are certainly plenty of the things whizzing around out there, and significant number of bigger ones too, which seems to have come as something of a surprise to those responsible for finding them. Back in 1998, the BBC reported:
So far, asteroid scientists have found about 125 "potentially hazardous" asteroids and comets that periodically pass near Earth's orbit. Some scientists believe there could be as many as 2,000.Fifteen years on, Wkipiedia tells us:
By January 2009, NASA had listed 1006 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) and 85 near-Earth comets (NECs). The total Solar System inventory continues to grow, with 1360 PHA known as of December 2012.
NEOWISE data estimates that there are 4,700 ± 1,500 potentially hazardous asteroids with a diameter greater than 100 meters. As of 2012, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of these objects have been found.On the bright side, it looks like an awful lot of excuses out there for a party!
2013 ET will be covered by SLOOH tonight starting at 8.15. Ready? 'Eins, zwei, drei, vier...'