2013 XY8 will be zipping past a mere 750,000-odd km away later today - or two lunar distances - but, according to NASA's Near Earth Object Program, after a few more passes, the 40m wide asteroid has a 1-in-1,120 chance of an Earth impact on the 12th of December 2095.
This gives NASA & Co plenty of time to investigate ways to deflect it should the odds shorten further, though it is, in a way, disappointing that current reports suggest the favoured option will not be painting it white to increase solar deflection.
Unless someone comes up with an equally elegant and ingenious solution, we're back to Bruce Willis and the nukes.
All this talk of asteroid deflection may, of course, be rendered entirely academic if things start hotting up at Yellowstone's volcano. New measurements released this week show that it's about 2.5 times bigger than early estimates suggested:
The team found that the magma chamber was colossal, reaching depths of between 2km and 15km, the cavern was about 90km long and 30km wide.The BBC report includes a spectacular simulated satellite view of a massive ash cloud emanating from the area, then spoils the effect by adding a caption which helpfully states the bleeding obvious:
It is unclear when the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt againSince all the calculations are based on three known eruptions, and the margin for error is in the order of millennia, the chances of anything kicking off in the lifetime of this blog are remote - though I promise I'll post on it the minute I hear of something happening there.
It's a reminder that, in the geological scheme of things, we are about as important as bacteria on the surface of a football; if enough of us act together we can cause some unsightly blemishes and bad smells but the football, by and large, ignores us.
I have a great respect for geologists, who somehow navigate the existential perils of what is essentially Douglas Adams' Total Perspective Vortex:
The prospective victim of the TPV is placed within a small chamber wherein is displayed a model of the entire universe - together with a microscopic dot bearing the legend "you are here". The sense of perspective thereby conveyed destroys the victim's mind.Here in the Tavern, we prefer to retreat to the immediate certainties of a brimming tankard and a worthy toast.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us drink to 2013 XY8 - many happy returns!