Author Topic: Asteroids in the news.  (Read 1144 times)

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Offline icrcc

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Asteroids in the news.
« on: January 02, 2015, 05:03:51 PM »
According to the UK Newspaper the Daily Express; "SCORES of giant asteroids are on course to hurtle close to Earth before the end of February, according to latest NASA space data."  Now while headlines like this are eye catching and essentially correct they are not anything to worry about.

 Asteroids are as much a part of our solar system as our planet Earth is. There are billions of them most of which most have orbits between the Mars and Jupiter. They range in size from dwarf planted like the largest asteroid called Ceres to the size of small pebbles and they are made from a range of different materials. So far we have identified and named about 7,000 of them and while they remain in orbit between Mars and Jupiter they pose no threat to us or the planet Earth.  Unfortunately collisions with other asteroids and other disruptive forces knock them into elliptical orbits so at one time they are closer to the S and at others much further away.  When this happens their orbital path may cross Earth’s orbit and they are called near Earth asteroids or potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs for short). This is when they can pose a threat because if they cross a point in our orbit as the same time earth is there then well there is a collision.

Collisions are never a good thing; just ask the dinosaurs what happened when a medium sized asteroid impacted the earth 65 million years ago. Oh that’s right; we can’t because it caused their extinction. When a pebble sized asteroid impacts the Earth it burns up in the atmosphere and we see it as a meteor and if it makes its way down to the surface we call it a meteorite.   We are aware of 1,552 asteroids that make close passed to the Earth. We plot their orbits to ensure that they do not pose a threat. That number is always increasing lists all the close fly bys for a month or so ahead. Those that pass us beyond the Moons orbit are close, those that pass closer and are between us and the Moon are really close in astronomical terms.

For those that follow these events on realize that the headlines in the Express are little more than sensationalism because although the numbers of close approaches vary at different times of the year there is nothing different in the next couple of months and it is business as usual. There are no known close approaches in the next two months. The only problem there is the word “known”, as we did not see the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on 15 February 2013 coming. Nor did we foretell the formidable explosion that took place over Tunguska in Siberia that flattened 2,150 square kilometers with a force of about 20 megatons in 1908.  :o
It may never happen. Best to be prepared just in case.