Skip to comments.Space rock 'on collision course'
Posted on 07/23/2002 7:00:00 PM PDT by Lorenb420
An asteroid discovered just weeks ago has become the most threatening object yet detected in space.
A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with Earth on 1 February 2019, although the uncertainties are large.
Astronomers have given the object a rating on the so-called Palermo technical scale of threat of 0.06, making NT7 the first object to be given a positive value.
From its brightness astronomers estimate it is about 2km wide, large enough to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth.
Although astronomers are saying the object definitely merits attention, they expect more observations to show it is not on an Earth-intersecting trajectory.
It was first seen on the night of 5 July, picked up by the Linear Observatory's automated sky survey programme in New Mexico, in the southern US.
Since then astronomers worldwide have been paying close attention to it, amassing almost 200 observations in a few weeks.
Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, told BBC News Online that "this asteroid has now become the most threatening object in the short history of asteroid detection".
NT7 circles the Sun every 837 days and travels in a tilted orbit from about the distance of Mars to just within the Earth's orbit.
Detailed calculations of its orbit suggest many occasions when its projected path through space intersects the Earth's orbit.
Researchers estimate that on 1 February 2019 its impact velocity on the Earth would be 28km a second - enough to wipe out a continent and cause global climate changes.
However, Dr Peiser was keen to point out that future observations could change the situation.
He said: "This unique event should not diminish the fact that additional observations in coming weeks will almost certainly, we hope, eliminate the current threat."
According to astronomers NT7 will be easily observable for the next 18 months or so, meaning there is no risk of losing the object.
Observations made over that period - and the fact that NT7 is bright enough that it is bound to show up in old photographs - mean that astronomers will soon have a very precise orbit for the object.
Dr Donald Yeomans, of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, told BBC News Online: "The orbit of this object is rather highly inclined to the Earth's orbit so it has been missed because until recently observers were not looking for such objects in that region of space."
Regarding the possibility of an impact, Dr Yeomans said the uncertainties were large.
"The error in our knowledge of where NT7 will be on 1 February 2019 is large, several tens of millions of kms," he said.
Dr Yeomans told BBC News Online that the world would have to get used to finding more objects like NT7 that, on discovery, look threatening, but then become harmless.
"This is because the problem of Near Earth Objects is now being properly addressed," he said.
Since 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing maybe we could set this program as a long range goal for NASA and space commericalization al la Dr. Gerald O'Neills "High Frontier"
We should be so lucky. That's actually less likely on two counts. The moon is a smaller target and its sucks less, that is it's gravity is weaker, so it wouldn't bend the orbit of the rock as much as the rock gets closer.
It would be quite a show if should impact the front side (just as likely). I don't know if the near side being in daylight (full moon) or darkness (new moon) would be more spectacular. Maybe the best would be for the impact site to be near the terminator, but in darkness. As the debrie cloud rose into the sunlight, you would be able to see a bright spot appear over an otherwise dark area. During a full moon this would appear as a protrusion from the edge of visible disk.
Hope I make it to 2019. Although most likely it will miss, space is large and mostly empty.
You could probably determine from spectography if it had anything valuable on it, if it did, you could mine it, if it didn't, you could throw a bunch of measurement equipment on it to ride off with it. I read today that Voyager is still sending back data all these years later.
Yeah, and they will speak of a future "Bush Whacking" I'm sure. :)
By the way, blasting one of these things with a nuclear device isn't nearly as easy as it sounds, would need a very big device, and would more likely convert it from a single bullet to a radioactive shotgun blast, rather than make it miss entirely.
Read the literature about NEO's. We are NOT prepared to deal with an NEO that shows up on a collision course a few weeks prior to impact.
"Mr. Chekov, aim phasers at asteroid."
"Phasars aimed, Keptin'."
"Fire phasers." (phasers fire).
"Spock, what effect?"
"The asteroid has been obliterated, Captain, however, sensors reveal that a Klingon warship has just dropped out of warp near Saturn."
Interesting, but I hadn't realized there was a significant scarcity of stainless steel. Would this mean that the Delorean could make a comeback?
Oh man, are you ever right!
Chicken Littles gotta have those gubmint grants to see if the sky is indeed falling. Or global
cooling warming is about to do us in.
sensors reveal that a Klingon warship has just dropped out of warp
....and don't you forget it, either. ;)
"Hab SoSlI' Quch!" (Your mother had a smooth forehead.)
First Step, return to Moon and establish a permanent presence by July 20, 2019.
Second Step, by 2030 establish O'Neil factories at LaGrange points to process lunar material and asteroidal material into Solar Power Generating stations so that all power for earth will come from space based power plants.
Third Step, by 2050 all heavy industry is moved off planet and Earth becomes a bedroom community where all God's children can live in a pastoral paradise of our own making.
Remember, our economic system recognizes the old adage, "infinite wants, limited resources". If you look up, (or as we say "Ad Astra"), there is no limit to the resources available.
Climbing down off soapbox!
The delta-v required to make a 2-kilometer rock in an Earth-crossing orbit hit the sun is almost certainly going to be beyond any human scale.
The delta-v required to make it miss the Earth, if it's really on a collision course with Earth in 2019, is probably far beyond our capabilities.