Skip to comments.Largest Asteroid in Years Misses Earth - "We never saw it coming"
Posted on 06/21/2002 5:16:28 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An asteroid the size of a soccer field whizzed by Earth at a distance much nearer than the Moon, the biggest such space rock in decades to get this close, scientists said on Thursday.
Asteroid 2002MN was not detected until Monday, three days after its closest approach on June 14, when it got within 75,000 miles of Earth and was traveling at a speed of some 23,000 miles per hour, astronomers said.
It is now several million miles away, according to Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics' Minor Planet Center, which tracks asteroids.
"It's the largest (asteroid) we've seen at that distance in the last several decades," Marsden said in a telephone interview.
The last time any asteroid came this close was in 1994, according to the Near Earth Object Information Center in Britain.
The big rock, with a diameter of roughly 50 yards to 120 yards, would not have caused global catastrophe if it had struck Earth. That would take an asteroid of several miles diameter.
However, if it had hit Earth, it had the potential to cause as much local devastation as a 1908 hit in Tunguska, Siberia, which flattened some 800 square miles of forest.
Asteroid 2002MN was first spotted by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research program, based in Socorro, New Mexico.
"It's a good thing it missed the Earth, because we never saw it coming," Steve Maran of the American Astronomical Society said in a telephone interview. "The asteroid wasn't discovered until three days after it passed its closest approach to our planet."
LINEAR is part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's initiative to find 90 percent of all near-Earth objects, including asteroids, that measure .62 mile or more in diameter by 2008.
An asteroid the size of 2002MN may hit Earth about once every hundred years or so, and the planet may not have seen the last of this one, Marsden said.
"There is a slim chance it could hit in 2061," he said, putting that chance at about one in 100,000.
"At some level, it behooves us to look out for these things," he said.
Asteroid 2002 MN will be observable by some telescopes but it is getting fainter as it moves away, Marsden said.
Someone ain't kidding when they say close. What now? Is Congress going to fund a $37 Billion pork included Counter-Asteroid Program? Create a new department of Outer-Space Defense Agency? or demand from the UN that they rename themselves the United Federation of Planets? Demand hearings on why NASA failed to detect this attempted attack on Earth? Leak intelligence information that we had prior space signals on this asteriod? Revisit the national missile defense program allowing for missiles to be also launched into space? Stand on the Capitol stairs and hum the the sound track to Star Trek?
That's the Robert Byrd Counter-Asteroid Program based in West Virginia.
Actually, there are dozens of multi-kiloton explosions in our atmosphere every day. Discovery had some neat time-lapse photos. One of the things that much of our detection system is set up for is descriminating between real launches, blasts, and meteor events.
No way! My vote goes to the Shelia Jackson Lee Counter-Asteroid Program. Based right next to where our Astronauts planted the Flag on Mars!
Now use the terrorism model! More funding will be appropriated, right after we get struck by one.
Don't you know? That's the American way.
Our system could do this, but what about the other nuclear nations? They Western European countries probably can, but there is a lot of left over East German quality radar equipment in the Asian and former Soviet areas. China, Russia, and possibly North Korea, can at the very least take out our West Coast.
Or you're following the other airplane.
Shame we don't have anything up there to rope these big boys into a safer, much more productive orbit (say out beyond GSO).
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