It was reported recently that a fairly large asteroid missed hitting the earth by a mere 45,000 miles. That’s a very, very near miss in astronomical terms, the moon is 240,000 miles away.
The asteroid, named 2019OK, was only detected a few days before it nearly hit us and the announcement of its passage was only made a few hours before it flew by. 2019OK was 57 to 130 meters in size and would have devastated a large part of the earth if it had hit.
For example, back in 2013, a meteor snuck up on us and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk; that blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion, and the resulting shock wave shattered glass down below and injured more than 1,000 people.
The Chelyabinsk meteor was only about 20 meters across.
2019OK comes just days after a smaller, car-sized, asteroid hit our planet and blew up into a spectacular fireball a couple hundred miles south of Puerto Rico.
Astronomers around the world continue to work to monitor any asteroids that pose danger to the earth. NASA is tracking over 90 percent of the asteroids that are one (1) kilometre or larger and are orbiting close to our planet. Granted we know about their existence and will have time to act to a real treat – “asteroid impacts are the only potentially preventable natural disasters,” according to NASA. They are currently studying various ways to deflect asteroids, with the so-called Double-Asteroid Redirection Test planned to launch such a technology in 2021. With just a day or a week’s notice, we would be in real trouble, but with more notice there are options. Rather than destruction of the asteroid, which might cause it to break into multiple destructive asteroids, the solution might be a “gentle nudge rather than a vicious kick” away from our fragile planet.
All this tells me that we ought to be paying more attention, and doing some contingency planning. Some groups are doing just that but most of us are blissfully unaware that we could go the way of the dinosaurs on just a few hours’ notice, and that danger is real.
Perhaps we are better off not knowing!
Colonies on the Moon, Mars would be a start. NASA and others are working on those.
Astronomers announced this week that they had discovered the nearest potentially habitable planet outside our solar system. Unfortunately, the newfound exoplanet, named GJ357d, lies 31 light-years away from our solar system.
Maybe we should look more closely at inventing WARP Drive. Scientists are currently postulating that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity may be obsolete close to Black Holes. Maybe the current concept that we cannot travel faster than the speed of light can be challenged and overcome as well. There might be hope in GJ357d yet!