Will another Tunguska event happen on Feb. 15? Asteroid 2012 DA14 to set a dubious record
Asteroid will make the closest such pass in recorded history.
An asteroid about 50 yards across will speed past Earth faster than a bullet on Feb. 15, and the shave will be so close that it will pass beneath many satellites in Earth orbit. Scientists promise there is no chance for a collision.
Even today, more than a century later, the Siberian forest remains littered with the fallen remains of 80 million trees, flattened in a single, fiery instant.
People living miles away from the air burst reported being thrown to the ground by the shockwave with some victims temporarily losing hearing and vision. The blast and subsequent shaking, much like an earthquake, shattered windows. Instruments as far away as London detected the blast.
Such an impact could have destroyed an entire city.
Now, a similarly-sized rock is passing very close. In fact, it is the closest approach of an asteroid in recorded history.
Scientists have been watching Asteroid 2012 DA14, since it was discovered last year by amateur astronomers from Spain. The close approach has been of concern because of its tremendous destructive power. However, scientists stressed that even if the asteroid were on track to strike Earth, it would be unlikely to cause any substantial damage - given the likelihood that it would not land on a major metropolitan area. While it's dangerously sized, it's not a planet killer by any stretch.
Nonetheless, its discovery caused quite a stir.
Most scientists see the close approach as an opportunity to educate the public about the threat from asteroid impacts. While significant impacts are quite rare, happening only every several thousand years or so on average, major impacts can occur every several million years and have the potential to devastate life on the planet.
Scientists now believe that a major asteroid impact which took place 65 million years ago was so powerful and threw so much dust and debris into the atmosphere, that it killed the dinosaurs and most other life on the planet. By virtue of natural selection, a few small and lucky warm-blooded mammals survived this event and its freezing aftermath, which persisted for years.
Scientists know that Asteroid 2012 DA14 isn't so dramatic, but it is a typical asteroid and worth study. As it zips past the Earth on Feb. 15, ground-based radar will attempt to map the asteroid. Researchers want to know as much as they can find about the asteroid, including its true size, mass, composition, spin, and reflectivity.
Answering these questions can provide scientists with information that would be useful for devising solutions for improving detection of these objects. Detection is key because astronomers believe that another Tunguska event will happen again. They also believe that a major extinction-level event such as that which killed the dinosaurs will also happen again. It is simply a matter of time.
For now, those timescales are measured in thousands to millions of years.
Yet, what happens if a major object is discovered that's on a collision course with Earth? Knowing more about Asteroid 2012 DA14 will help engineers develop ways that might possibly deflect such a threat.
For now, humanity can breathe a sigh of relief and go about its business with relief. Asteroid 2012 DA14 doesn't pose a threat. A Tunguska-like event may happen again, but it's not going to be because of Asteroid 2012 DA14.
Still, it's nice to know there are dedicated teams of astronomers keeping an eye out for the rest of us, and scientists dedicated to learning more about the cosmos, hopefully ensuring that we too escape the dinosaurs' fate, should it someday come to that.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Technology News
- NSA is piggybacking off private web tracking to ID and watch you, find targets
- IT'S TRUE: Americans have no right to privacy when they give information to a third party -- such as cell phone provider
- Evidence of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars discovered
- Mars One may stage ultimate anti-reality show where particpants vie to be voted OFF the planet to their demise
- NASA releases images of mysterious hexagon on Saturn
- Stanford researchers develop a way to literally read minds
- Report reveals FBI can remotely scan your computer without your knowledge
- Ultra-secret, Area-51 spy plane finally revealed to the public
- Micro-spacecraft plans to land on moon in 2015
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?