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

Friday 10 January 2014

A cheery wave

It's been a busy week for near-Earth asteroids; on Wednesday there was 2014 AD16, 576,000 km away, then yesterday brought 2014 AE29 at the rather more respectful distance of 1.5 million km, and, the icing on the cake, tonight we have 2014 AW32.

This 13-metre chunk of rock will be passing by a mere 186,636 km away at 9.48 this evening (GMT), half the distance from the Earth to the moon, although anyone hoping to watch it on the Virtual Telescope tonight will be greeted with the unintentionally grandiose announcement:

Because of clouds and fog
the asteroid 2014 AW32 event
is cancelled

If only it were that simple!

All three were discovered only a few days before their closest approach; one doesn't know whether to be pleased they were detected or worried that three of them managed to creep up on us like that in as many days. It's certainly starting to look pretty crowded out there, and that's without all the debris with which we've littered our exosphere.

Still, as always, a flyby is a good excuse for a drink, especially when it happens so conveniently on a Friday night, so let's salute 2014 AW32 as it goes on its way.



  1. "Still, as always, a flyby is a good excuse for a drink"

    Good idea, especially if the number of detected flybys is increasing.

  2. Youtube, Gracie Fields, "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye".

  3. AKH, we're still evolving the rules about how close it has to be before we start drinking - the general rule of thumb is 5 lunar distances but it's definitely flexible.

    Demetrius, given its orbit, it's more like 'au revoir'.

    Meanwhile, I'm grateful to you for reminding me of this, from Spike Milligan's 'Mussolini: His Part in my Downfall':

    'Hitched a ride to Naples and the Garrison Theatre to see Gracie Fields in "Sing As We Go!". Having never sung as I'd been, I was keen to see how it was done. It was terrible! So terrible that I thought that at any moment she would sing the bloody awful Warsaw Concerto. She was on to her hundredth 'Eee Bai Gum' when the **** hit the fan. The whole theatre shook, accompanied by labyrinthine rumblings. Vesuvius had blown its top. The audience became a porridge of screams and shouts of "What the **** was that?", all the while hurtling towards the exit. It coincided with Gracie Fields, followed by spanner clutching extras, marching towards the screen singing "Sing As We Go". It looked as if the screaming mass were trying to escape from her!'


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