Skip to comments.Space Rock To Hurtle Past Earth
Posted on 01/06/2002 7:20:43 PM PST by blam
Monday, 7 January, 2002, 02:24 GMT
Space rock to hurtle past Earth
Multiple images of Asteroid 2001 YB5 show rapid motion
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse An asteroid discovered just a month ago is making a close approach to the Earth.
Although there is no danger of collision with it, astronomers say that its proximity reminds us just how many objects there are in space that could strike our planet with devastating consequences.
It will pass less than twice the Moon's distance from us as the rocky body moves closer to the Sun.
It is thought to be 300 metres in size - large enough to wipe out an entire country if it struck the Earth.
2001 YB5 was discovered in early December by the Neat (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) survey telescope observing from Mount Palomar in California.
Astronomers call it an Apollo object because it has a highly elliptical orbit that crosses the orbits of Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury. It circles the Sun every 1,321 days.
Astronomers also add that it is "potentially hazardous", meaning there is a slim chance that it may strike the Earth sometime in the future.
In the meantime, it will come very close to us. At 0737 GMT on 7 January it will pass just 370,000 miles away from the Earth - close in cosmic terms.
As it approached, the Earth it was observed by the Klet Observatory in the Czech Republic by astronomers Jana Ticha and Milos Tichy who tracked it on 5 January.
Such a "close encounter" is rare but not unprecedented. However, the only other known object that will come closer to the Earth is an asteroid called 1999 AN10 that will pass a shade closer on 7 August 2027.
2001 YB5's brightness suggests it is a rocky body about 300 metres across.
If it struck the Earth a 300 metre object would not be a global killer: to wipe all life off the face of our planet an object would have to be about 1 km is size. But 300 metres is more than enough to cause widespread devastation.
If it struck land it would wipe out an entire country. If the impact point were London then scientists estimate there would be total devastation for 150 kilometres and severe destruction for a further 800 kilometres, meaning that not only would the UK be destroyed but France and the Low Countries as well.
If it struck the ocean the destruction would be more widespread. It would trigger Tsunamis that would devastate most coastal cities.
According to experts, the recent discovery and close approach of 2001 YB5 suggests that something nasty could creep up on us at any time.
Dr Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University told BBC News Online: "The fact that this object was discovered less than a month ago leads to the question of if we would have had enough time to do anything about it had it been on a collision course with us.
"Of course the answer is no, there is nothing we could have done about it."
Astronomers and archaeologists suspect that our planet is struck by a 300 metre object like 2001 YB5 about every 5,000 years or so, but this is an estimate based on a hunch rather than on any definite evidence.
"It is a reminder of the objects that are out there. It is a reminder of what is going to happen unless we track them more efficiently than we do and make better preparations to defend our planet," says Dr Peiser.
... its proximity reminds us just how many objects there are in space that could strike our planet with devastating consequences ...I'll say. That giant arrow-like object looks particularly menacing.
I gotta study "hurtling", see if I can make some money at it.
Do you think that's where Sagan got the name for his book, "Contact"?
We're fortunate that it doesn't appear to cross our orbit.
At 0737 GMT on 7 January it will pass just 370,000 miles away from the Earth - close in cosmic terms.
Assuming this is correct, and you're going to live another 100 years, the odds are one only in 50 that such a meteor will strike any point on the earth during your lifetime.
And any such strike would most likely hit water.
It appears to be some sort of bird track -- sign left by an intergalactic pea-fowl or space chicken . . .
|Tunguska, Siberia (1908)||50 m|
|Meteor Crater, Arizona (20,000 years ago)||100 m|
|2001 YB5 (now)||300 m|
|Chicxulub, Gulf of Mexico (65,000,000 years ago)||10,000 m|
The Tunguska explosion occurred in 1908, they are estimated to occur every 80-100 years.
Good news: Doomsday has been postponed
By Robert Matthews, Science Correspondent
THE end is not as nigh as we thought. Scientists have found a mistake in the standard account of the future fate of the solar system and now believe that the Earth will not be destroyed when the Sun runs out of fuel.
For decades, astronomy textbooks have insisted that the Earth will be engulfed in an inferno billions of years from now as the Sun burns up its nuclear fuel and swells to become a gigantic red star.
Surrounded by the searing gas of the Sun's outer atmosphere, the Earth was expected to be dragged down to its doom deep within the Sun.
Now a team of astrophysicists at Sussex University has uncovered a significant flaw in the standard view of how the Sun will evolve, with dramatic consequences for the fate of our planet.
Thanks for bringing this out.
On 7 Jan 2002 there were 361 known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids