Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Asteroid ennui

Another week, another asteroid!

Actually, 2013 LR6 is more of a rock, really, being a distinctly unimpressive 30 ft in diameter, but it's still an excuse for a party (video animation here).

Though it is missing us by a mere 65,000 miles (it helps to consider that the Earth is about 7,900 miles in diameter, and the Moon is an average of 238,855 miles away), it seems to have escaped the attention of the popular press because it's a midget compared to the much larger 1998 QE2.

And, as regular visitors to the Tavern know, it's been quite a year for asteroids already. As detection levels improve, the number of objects known to be hurtling round out there will increase to a point where their proximity does not even raise an eyebrow.

Of course, some of us have known for a long time that the smaller rocks were out there - as far back as the 1970s, Oliver Postgate's knitted TV aliens were called 'Clangers' after the sound made by the metal lids that protected their burrows from meteorite impacts - but after this year's glut of spectacular news stories, readers expect more.

We now take for granted that the number-crunchers can predict orbital paths to the last decimal place; if they say there's no danger of impact, then all the suspense is gone. And, if Hollywood trends are anything to go by, asteroid impact is just so last decade - it's all about zombies now.

So yet another passing rock has to be something out the ordinary to grab the attention of the man on the Clapham omnibus. The newsworthiness of asteroids, it appears, is determined by some kind of equation that incorporates size, distance and the possibility of using an artist's impression of a massive cosmic disaster.

Here in the Tavern, however, we have not lost our sense of awe at what lies beyond our planet; whether or not you share it, you are invited to raise a virtual tankard with us in salute of 2013 LR6.

3 comments:

  1. Keep us up to speed on this one, Macheath.

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  2. Of course, Cameron is a Clanger.

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  3. I can but try, JH.

    Demetrius, you're right - in fact, I can't think why I never noticed it before!

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