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

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Out of the blue



Next 5 Earth Approaches within 7.5 million kilometers
Feb
15
2015
11 m
2,770,000 km
Feb
15
2015
18 m
1,290,000 km
Feb
15
2015
68 m
2,950,000 km
Feb
15
2015
52 m
3,260,000 km
Feb
15
2015
24 m
775,000 km


http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch/

I think this counts as a full house; you wait weeks for an asteroid inside the 5,000,000km mark and then five come along at once.

What makes it even more interesting is that four out of the five were detected within the last two days, along with the departing 2015 CH13, a 10m-wide cosmic tiddler which passed a mere 268,000-odd km away on Wednesday.

And, to top it all, today being the second anniversary of the Chelyabinsk airburst, the B612 Foundation (the organisation behind the Sentinel mission) has decided it is an appropriate time to remind us of the dangers of asteroid impact.

It's a warning we've heard before but, this time, the focus is on the small fry - rather like today's visitors, in fact - with former astronaut Dr Ed Lu reassuring us that, for a small asteroid, deflection should be relatively straightforward:
"In most cases, simply running into the offending asteroid with a small spacecraft is sufficient."
Unmanned, one hopes. There's surely a film script in there somewhere but, to be honest, it's not exactly up there with Bruce Willis and the nukes, is it? Perhaps Hollywood will instead turn its attention to the drama of mass evacuation, now that planned detection systems may give enough warning to clear the impact areas in time.

With a matter of hours of warning - if any at all - this week we are certainly not yet at that point; in fact, a cynic might be tempted to wonder whether, had one of the five been heading straight for us, the authorities would have passed on the news at all. The potential for civil unrest and administrative chaos might well make public ignorance the preferred option.

On a more positive note, since every fly-by (or safe departure, depending on your attitude) deserves to be celebrated with a brimming tankard, tonight looks like being a good one - I invite you to join me in a toast to five near misses.

Cheers!

6 comments:

  1. But that was yesterday, so we missed it.

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  2. "Perhaps Hollywood will instead turn its attention to the drama of mass evacuation"

    Yes, running into it with a small spacecraft won't do at all. Rockets filled with CO2 are a possibility, thus saving the planet twice in one movie.

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  3. True, JH, the post didn't go out until teatime - I'll try to give you more warning next time.

    AKH, assuming it would be dramatically compressed, I rather like the idea of pushing an asteroid off course with an overgrown Sodastream.

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  4. http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/02/16/rosetta_closeup_photos_from_a_low_pass_over_the_surface.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/02/16/rosetta_closeup_photos_from_a_low_pass_over_the_surface.html

    ReplyDelete