An Asteroid striking the earth is seen in science fiction. An asteroid striking the earth is also scientific fact. There are craters clearly visible all over the moon, and there are many such craters here on earth.
NASA’s Near Earth Object Program currently lists 80 NEO’s (near-earth-objects, asteroids) that will zip past the earth between now and early June of this year. On average, that’s about 25 asteroids per month, or say – more-or-less about 1 per day.
An alarming fact to discover is of the 80 asteroid’s that are forecast to fly by before early June, 16 of those asteroids were just discovered within the last 6 weeks!
In fact, 32 of those 80 asteroids have been discovered just during the past year!
One wonders how many more asteroids, or NEO’s (near-earth-objects) remain undiscovered and how many of them may even be on a collision course with our planet.
For example, of the 32 asteroids that have been discovered during the past year (there are more of them – these are only those that are listed to fly by between now and early June), the largest object listed is an enormous 430 – 970 meters in diameter! That’s more than a half mile wide!
This particular half mile wide asteroid (named 2010 TU5) is predicted to remain a safe distance away during it’s flyby, and will pass by the earth at 35 lunar distances, or about 8 million miles on April 27 (1 LD equals ~240,000 miles). That’s still very close in astronomical terms.
The largest in the group of 80 asteroids measures an astonishing 3.6 km, or 2.2 miles across. It was discovered in the year 2000, and will pass to within 45 lunar distances of earth on March 10.
Any asteroid that strikes the planet carries a tremendous amount of energy. The bigger and faster the object, the more energy it carries, and the bigger the disaster.
In the year 2028 a mile-wide asteroid (named 1997 XF11) traveling at 30,000 mph will come within 2.5 lunar distances of the earth, based on current predictions. According to the science branch of the Discovery Channel, if it were to strike the earth, that asteroid would have the approximate energy of a 1 million megaton bomb, and would most likely become an extinction level event, wiping out most life on earth.
To put it in perspective, they go on to say, if a mile wide asteroid were to strike New York City, it would entirely flatten everything from Washington DC to Boston, and cause extensive damage out to 1,000 miles, say, Chicago. The amount of debris that would be thrown up into the atmosphere would block the sun and cause most living things to perish.
The closest encounter with an asteroid (that we know about) between now and June-2011 will be on June 2 when asteroid (2009 BD) will come closer to us than the distance to the moon, within 0.9 lunar distance. The size of that rock is only 13 meters (the size of a house), but if it were to hit the earth, it would still be as powerful as a 20 kiloton nuclear bomb.
On February 17, 20, 22, March 10, 17, 31, April 4, 15, 17, 27, May 5, 18, 26, and June 1, half-mile wide, or larger asteroids will pass ‘near’ the earth at distances ranging from 23 to 67 lunar distances.
On February 20, March 10, April 15, May 5, and June 1, 1-mile wide or larger asteroids will come within 45 to 67 lunar distances of the earth (probable extinction event, if any struck the earth).
While these distances are safe, in that these particular asteroids will not strike us, when you imagine the size of our solar system, these distances are pretty close.
One-mile-wide or larger, Asteroids to fly by the earth in 2011
(data up through 1-Jun-2011, so far)
Recently, more asteroids have been and are being discovered because more astronomers have been on a mission to discover more of them. That’s good for us, I suppose. Or would you rather not know if one is about to land on your head…
While there are plenty of things that we know about, out there in space, there are also lots of unknowns, and at any moment we could be surprised by any one of them. I’m sure your odds of being affected by an asteroid aren’t much different from winning the lottery, but then again, sooner or later someone always wins the lottery – right?
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