Asteroids striking the earth, creating havoc and massive natural disasters. It’s the stuff of science fiction, right? In fact, books like Lucifer’s Hammer have dealt with exactly that subject, and when a massive projectile slams into a planet at speed, the results are never pretty.
In fact, we sail along in a pretty crowded neighborhood in the universe. Asteroids are whizzing past our heads all the time, and we are (thankfully) oblivious to it. Well – until the time one bangs right into us again, which bears the possibility of precipitating a mini-ice-age, perturbing the earth’s orbit, causing sudden climatic variations that cause animal die-offs (from which humans are also not exempt)… you get the picture. Here’s some discussion of impact events to give you a broader picture of the possibilities.
So what’s an oblivious global population to do? Well, if nothing else, we can (and have) set our cosmic watchdogs to keeping a weather eye peeled, to let us know of hazards approaching from the cosmic skies. For decades NASA has kept watch on near-earth asteroids and other moving bodies, endlessly tracking trajectories and hopefully never finding anything on a collision course with Earth.
And finally, here’s one asteroid that’s coming close enough to be exciting, but far enough away that it poses no real hazard to the Earth or the Moon. An asteroid dubbed YU55 is in our neighborhood right this very moment, and will pass at its closest point to the earth right about 6:30pm Eastern time. Yeah, in a very short time! as of this writing (hey, I only just found out about this myself. If you have a 6-inch telescope and a clear sky you might even be able to see it from the earth.
Hm, I did say close, didn’t I?
Here’s more on the imminent passage of YU55, and the video below is a JPL animation of the projected event.
It’s another near miss in our cosmic neighborhood. But it’s just as well we’re not going to have to write disaster books about this one!
Originally posted 2011-11-08 16:33:54.