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

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Lost, stolen or strayed

There was cheering news recently for those of us of an absent-minded nature; something went missing this week besides which all those car keys, glasses and phones pale into insignificance.
The 270-metre space rock known as 2000 EM26 was slated to skim past Earth early on 18 February, coming within 3.4 million kilometres of our planet.
So far so routine - it's been a busy week and we don't tend to get excited unless an asteroid gets closer than 500,000km or so - but there's more:
When a robotic telescope service trained its eye on the predicted position, the asteroid was nowhere to be found.
Oops! Admittedly there's very little chance of it heading in our direction, though it's a happy coincidence that the Viking Twilight of the Gods is, in theory, due this weekend. (Other predicted events of Ragnarok include earthquakes and vast floods, just to let you know...)

The first thing you usually ask when something goes missing is, "Now, when did I see it last?" In the case of 2000 EM26, it was back in 2000, when it was discovered and briefly observed by astronomers. As a result of those calculations, observers at SLOOH lined up their lenses ready for a live broadcast of the flyby this week.

Instead, like hopeful paparazzi outside a stage door, they waited... and waited... and waited. Although there is usually some measure of uncertainty, it's not entirely reassuring, given the number of the things hurtling round out there, that there is such a substantial margin of error.

Now SLOOH's CEO has been reduced to putting up forlorn notices on the virtual lamp-posts of the internet calling on amateur astronomers to keep an eye out for the thing. Sadly there's no reward - just honorable mention on their website.

Still, if you happen to see a large space rock hurtling past you this weekend, it might be kind to let the chaps at SLOOH know about it - unless, of course, it's headed straight for us, in which case apocaholics of a Viking persuasion are in for the ultimate treat.

See you in Valhalla!


  1. Someone might have nicked it for the salvage.

  2. We have a lot of notices around us asking there their adorable cute (yes I read the Mail online) cat has gone to. Do I or do I not tell them that the adorable cute foxes they love as well have had them for a late supper?

  3. Nature red in tooth and claw might just be too much for them, Demetrius; I'm sure they would prefer to blame the disappearances on the evil combustion engine.

    When my sister lived in Boston, Mass., the local Public Service TV channel had a running strapline of lost cat announcements. Oddly enough, almost every one contained the phrase 'last seen in the vicinity of Route 1...'

    (It might be worth noting here that my neighbour's cat was run over by two eco-nuts on a tandem.)

  4. Funny that. I sense a conspiracy Mcheath!


  5. Inspired, PM; riotous applause, grateful thanks and a hearty welcome to the Tavern!