Skip to comments.Heavenly body gives Bush a close call
Posted on 02/26/2004 2:42:23 PM PST by presidio9
January 14 could have been a bad day for George Bush. As the president was preparing to announce America's return to the moon in a speech at the headquarters of Nasa, he was almost asked to deliver a very different message: that the Earth could suffer a devastating asteroid strike within 24 hours. Astronomers have revealed that during a "nine-hour crisis" the night before Mr Bush's speech they believed there was a one in four chance an asteroid would hit the planet in 36 hours. Had it not been for a break in the clouds that allowed an amateur astronomer to give the all-clear, the scientists say they were on the verge of calling the White House.
"A preliminary analysis of the discovery data for this object yielded a possible impact with the Earth in less than two days' time," said David Morrison, an asteroid and comet impact hazard expert at Nasa's Ames Research Centre. "And if a possibility of an impact in two days existed, what should we do about notifying governments or the public?"
The scientists could only say they thought the 30-metre asteroid would strike somewhere in the northern hemisphere; at that size it would have exploded well before reaching the ground, though it could have killed thousands if it broke up over a big city.
The object - named 2004 AS1 - turned out to be around 500 metres across, and passed the Earth at a safe range of about 12m km: some 32 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
Details of the events of January 13 were revealed this week by a veteran sky-watcher, Clark Chapman, at a planetary protection conference in California. He said the object had first been spotted in four grainy images taken by two automated telescopes set up to watch for asteroids in New Mexico. It had been impossible to calculate its orbit accurately from the images, but when the information was posted on the internet an amateur astronomer noticed the mystery object was predicted to get 40 times brighter by the same time the following day, bringing it six times closer to the Earth.
Astronomers confirmed that the asteroid could be on a collision course, but the telescopes that could see the relevant part of the sky were obscured by cloud.
Several hours after the scare began, an amateur astronomer, Brian Warner in Colorado, saw through a gap in the clouds and confirmed the area of sky was empty.
And Howard Dean would have found those reports "very interesting."
"Heads up, folks."
'Bad day for Bush?' How would it be worse for him than for any of us? Was the asteroid possibly heading for him in particular? Is this just a very very slanted story, or do news writers just not realize the stupid things they say?
New York Times headline: "World to end tomorrow, Women and Minorities Hardest Hit."
Since 500m is about 1/4 mile for those who prefer the English units, you're right. That would be bad, but not necessarily catastrophic. Depends on where it hits: the ocean could probably accept that without major catastrophe. That's not to say we wouldn't notice.
The famous Barringer "Meteor Crater" in Arizona, which is about 1.6 km in diameter, was reportedly (on one Web site) formed by a meteor about 25m in diameter.
Found a reference that says the crater diameter is roughly 10x the impactor diameter. If the estimate about Barringer Crater is right, then the crater should be 250m in diameter -- and it's actually 1600m in diameter, which is a factor of 64. So let's use those as the lower and upper bounds.
For a 500m impactor, the lower bound for the crater diameter is: 5000m (5km, 3miles).
The upper bound for the diameter is 32 km, 19.2 miles. I'm sure there's a scaling factor, but I would think it's reasonable to say that a 500m-diameter object would make a crater several miles in diameter. That's gotta hurt a bit.
Just enough time to panic, vomit, cry, and kiss your ass goodbye...
On less than 24 hours' notice? Not much more than "Duck!". The best we could have done was wait until an accurate trajectory was calculated and then, if it happened to be headed for a populated area, tell them to run like hell. Or, if it was to land in the ocean, to evacuate coastal cities to whatever extent possible.
Which probably wouldn't be much. Basically you'd just have mass panic and gridlock.
And, of course, a 500-meter asteroid would be a hell of a lot worse than a 30-meter one.
The surface of the earth is about 200 million square miles, of which 57 million or so are continents. The land area of the US is about 3.5 million square miles. Chances are an asteroid will land in an ocean, or hit some other country. (Something hit Siberia in 1908, maybe an asteroid.)
Of course, that won't stop it from being Bush's fault.
Does this warrant a "ping list?"
You know, I thought I felt the wind kick up a little stronger than usual that day...
On less than 24 hours' notice? Not much more than "Duck!".
Several other things also come to mind:
"Repent! The end is near!"
"Kiss your ass goodbye."
As an aside, this line from the Toho Japanese monster movies never seemed to do much good:
"Remain calm. Leave the town in an orderly fashion. Don't panic!"
The statisticians are feeling neglected. Hyperbole rules the day.
Why should we let ourselves be wiped out by a brainless chunk of rock?
Sorry, I thought this was the Howard Stern Thread.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.