Well, that was a confusing space odyssey Friday.
Everyone was told days ago that an asteroid was headed toward the Earth, but (Not to worry!) it was going to miss us by thousands of miles and wouldn’t even show up on the radar. For some reason, I woke up about 3 or 4 a.m. Friday morning and looked at my iPad, and there was a news alert that said a meteor had hit Russia and hurt hundreds of people. And soon afterward, every news site in the world was showing things like this:
So the asteroid DID hit us, right?
This was a meteor. The asteroid is still out there. Still not a danger. In fact, by Friday afternoon, it had passed by unnoticed and was on its merry way. This was something else, and we didn’t know it was coming.
Gee, that’s reassuring, because I’m thinking of the movie “Armageddon” and how Paris didn’t see the closing credits:
So the meteor was a sliver of the asteroid that broke off, right?
No. The Washington Post says:
It was a day when the Earth was caught in a cosmic crossfire. The big rock came from the south, the smaller one from the east. They were unrelated objects, with different orbits, one the size of an apartment building, the other slimmer but with better aim.
The larger asteroid missed by 17,000 miles, as expected, but the Russian meteor stole the show Friday, fireballing across the Ural Mountains in spectacular fashion and exploding into fragments, creating a powerful shock wave that blew out windows, collapsed roofs and injured 1,200 people, mostly from broken glass.
Here’s an illustration of how the meteor came down when it hit Russia.
It was traveling at 40,000 miles an hour. It was about 50 feet wide and weighed about 7,700 tons. It exploded high in the atmosphere with the force of 20 to 30 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs.
Gee, that’s reassuring.
Do you remember the 1950s science-fiction “Uh oh! Here comes the killer asteroid” movies, where a group of scientists have built ONE SPACESHIP to take a couple of hundred people to another planet — that just happens to support human life — so the species will survive.
Thing is, unless we’ve missed the announcement, there’s nowhere to go. If there was a planet in range that would assure our survival, we’d be sending probes there already.
NASA launched the two Voyager spacecraft more than 35 years ago. They are literally at the edge of the solar system. Other satellites have examined the giant planets past Mars. We’ve got robots on Mars for now going on 10 years looking for minuscule signs of life.
What they’ve found so far? Maybe there’s water on a moon of Saturn.
And even with that, we’ve never met anyone with one of those Willie Wonka golden tickets that are good for one seat of the survival rockets. Which don’t exist, unless there’s some top secret project in China like there was in the movie “2012.”
Then you’ve got to think if something really big is falling out of the sky, one of those “planet killers,” why tell us anything? We can’t go anywhere. If it’s big enough, we’re going to see it days before it hits. And unless there’s a global “shoot the rock out of the sky with nukes” game plan, there isn’t much to look forward to. Maybe this:
Given the choice, I’d prefer to listen to Pink Floyd over Richard Wagner. (In case you’re looking for the MP3, the Wagner is the Prelude from “Tristan und Isolde.” The Pink Floyd is “The Great Gig in the Sky” from “Dark Side of the Moon.”)
- Meteors and asteroids: What is the difference? (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- Asteroid misses Earth by 17,150 miles (newsday.com)
- ‘No Link’ Between Meteor That Hurt Hundreds And Asteroid About To Fly By (npr.org)
- Asteroid is passing close to Earth and a meteor struck Russia (minbcnews.com)
- Earth remains safe for now – but what about next asteroid? (sacbee.com)
- NASA expert says Russian meteor and asteroid are unrelated (examiner.com)