Deep Impact

Except for when I saw the movie “Deep Impact,” I have never been scared by the thought of an asteroid strike, so why do I write so much about them? The short answer is that I have been interested in asteroids, comets, and meteors since I was young, but a better answer is that in 2019 I had a briefing from some professional astronomers that renewed my interest in asteroids, and what might be headed our way. What they told me seemed to have an air of urgency to it, and now given the apparent up-tick in asteroid activity by the media, and a seemingly greater public interest in asteroids, it appears as if I might have been given some relevant information. The part that really interests me is the recent increase interest in asteroids by the world scientific community. The reaction coming from many quarters seems to indicate that something is a foot.

The following is from 2016

What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact Earth? While highly unlikely, that was the high-consequence scenario discussed by attendees at an Oct. 25 NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise in El Segundo, California.

While highly unlikely” is an interesting choice of words, but that sentiment is not the prevailing wisdom these days. They are from a conference back in 2016, and in my opinion, seem to be designed more to make all of us feel warm and fuzzy, but is that realistic?

The scientific community is aware that asteroids and other big space “rocks” pose a potential problem for the planet. In 2020, there is a great concern about what might be headed our way.

The average person must deal with the coronavirus, so awareness of the news regarding an asteroid on a potential collision course with the planet is probably not be uppermost on their mind. News of the asteroid that just missed us a couple of days ago is disconcerting because the encounter took us by surprise. Nevertheless, it is worthy of our attention. Moreover, the increase in the frequency of close encounter reports and the renewed interest in what’s going on near the planet is noteworthy.

If one looks for information about potential asteroid encounters one can find a number of potential candidates on the Internet. Much has been written about the asteroid called Apophis. CLICK HERE to read about the Friday the 13th near approach of that bad boy. Did I mention it is April 2029, almost a decade away from now? I will check my calendar to see if I will be available to watch it go by. In the meantime, we need to know what is happening right now regarding near earth asteroids?

I have a personal rule of life that is if an event is more than five years away then I do not need to know about it, so when we get to 2024 I will start thinking about Apophis. Even then it will be just for fun.

In my school daze I had a science teacher that made a point of telling the class that in one billion years or so, the sun will run out of solar fuel and the earth will be doomed. Wow, alert the media, and by the way, what’s for lunch? Why does anyone care about events 1000 years from now let alone a billion years? Has there been a dramatic change in life expectancy and I missed the memo? Meanwhile, back in 2020…

The incidents of near earth asteroid passing appear to getting more frequent. That may be in part due to the Internet and other modern communications methods. Accurate records of asteroid activity are kept by the people and agencies responsible for tracking asteroids. They would reveal if there is a recent increase in asteroid activity, or a recent increase of asteroid close encounters. Astronomers and other people who watch the skies for a living are in a position to know the level of risk. I wonder if they are they holding back information from the public?

The European Space Agency (ESA) reports: …such intense levels of international scientific collaboration are driven in part by the fact that an asteroid impact could cause devastating effects on Earth. This is a testament to the fact that we are at a point in human history where we are considering that we should do something about risky asteroids.

According to recent ESA estimates, there are 878 asteroids in the ‘risk list. This ESA catalog brings together all asteroids we know of that have a ‘non-zero’ chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years. Non-zero means that an impact, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out.

What are the odds that there is something out there that has yet to be seen? Something that for a number of reasons has not yet shown it’s crater pocked face. Something not yet seen by the astronomical community at large. Not possible you say, well we just missed one a few days ago, and it made the closest approach to earth of any asteroid known to our scientific community. Even the asteroid hunters admit that blew it, but in fairness, they are doing a remarkable job with the resources they have available to them.

Several near earth asteroid passes are slated for the rest of 2020. We are told that only a very few could possibly collide with earth, and more are being reported as “big.” By virtue of the timing, the most famous one is the election day asteroid. The scientific community is in agreement that it is very small and poses no significant problem, unless of course it hits your polling place on November 2nd.

I will continue to post significant asteroid updates in my blogs, and if the situation warrants it, present timely updates on any asteroid activity that might affect us. In a future post I will also share the bombshell information that I received during my face to face meeting last year with some professional astronomers. In the mean time, look at the night sky as often as you can and enjoy the majesty of the universe.

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