Something more worrisome than global warming

Story Submitted by Mike Bromley

ASTEROID FLYBY: – Asteroid will pass 12, 000 Km (7,500 miles) from Earth

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/images/2011md_ca4.gif

Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 MD will pass only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) above Earth’s surface on Monday June 27 at about 9:30 a.m. EDT. NASA analysts say there is no chance the space rock will strike Earth. Nevertheless, the encounter is so close that Earth’s gravity will sharply alter the asteroid’s trajectory.


At closest approach, 2011 MD will pass in broad daylight over the southern Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Antarctica. As the asteroid recedes from Earth, it will pass through the zone of geosynchronous satellites. The chances of a collision with a satellite or manmade space junk are extremely small, albeit not zero.

Judging from the brightness of the asteroid, it measures only 5 to 20 meters in diameter. According to JPL’s Near Earth Object Program office, one would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average. For a brief time, it will be bright enough to be seen even with a medium-sized backyard telescope.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news172.html

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82 Responses to Something more worrisome than global warming

  1. Peter Walsh says:

    Earth’s diameter is 7926.41 miles or 12756.32 km.

    So, this asteroid is far too close for comfort.

  2. omnologos says:

    now imagine it’d been 10 times larger in all directions and 12000 km to the left. Do you think the IPCC would have released a statement about the worry of the increase in CO2 after the impact.

  3. Mike Borgelt says:

    What’s really concerning is the lack of warning time. How much more for a bigger one?
    Reminds me of Mike Flynn’s “Firestar” quadrilogy. Well worth reading IMHO as is all of Flynn’s SF.

  4. Dodgy Geezer says:

    “…For a brief time, it will be bright enough to be seen even with a medium-sized backyard telescope…”

    Umm…yes, but it looks as if you would have to put your telescope on the South Pole in order to see it…..

  5. RoundaboutDan says:

    At 5-20 metres in diameter, this would ablate in the upper atmosphere to (most likely) a shower of pebbles with a few % of the original mass, if that. What this really is, is a testament to the robotic surveys now searching the skies for NEOs! For an idea of the effects of such a body striking the Earth, see 2008 TC3′s encounter with Sudan, an impactor which (for the first time) was spotted and tracked prior to impact:

    http://www.planetary.org/news/2009/0326_Asteroid_Tracked_in_Space_Its_Remains.html

  6. Dave N says:

    If it’s less than 10m in diameter (which they’re saying it could be), it’s in the meteoroid class:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid

    Worrisome? Yawn

  7. Brian H says:

    Nuke it now! The Precautionary Principle demands it. It could swerve and smash some pristine woodlands, or tug on the Earth and stop it in mid-orbit, causing it to fall into the Sun. The chances are minuscule, but The Precautionary Principle doesn’t care; no matter the expense, no matter how trivial the risk, it must be averted!

    Oh, never mind …

  8. Martin Brumby says:

    If you splice the “Moon’s orbit edge on” at the left, together with this Asteroid’s approach trajectory, this is more incontravertable proof that Meltdown Mann was right all along!

    \sarc.

  9. eco-geek says:

    Its much smaller than the one I have seen passing through the Earth’s atmosphere at midnight which distended three fingers at arms length. Wreathed in ruddy orange flame its surface features – ridges and hollows – were clearly visible. It had some rotation and was completely silent implying a height well in excess of 25 miles as there was no sonic boom.

    Problem is I’ve seen it twice now. Now that is more serious than global warming

  10. eco-geek says:

    If anyone would like to read a fuller account of this it can be found as a comment on the Sign Of The Times website as a reader comment below the main article:

    http://www.sott.net/articles/show/174013

    Further, if WUWT would like to publish a digital full colour drawing of the second sighting which I think is a very good representation please email me. Then be afraid, be very afraid.

  11. Alan the Brit says:

    Wow how fascinating!

    Let us hope & pray that the same people who have calculated the trajectory of this little fellow aren’t relying on a computer model used to do climate predictions!!!!!!!!!!!! Back of a fag packet with a 2B pencil would be more reliable IMHO. :-) BTW fag is UK slang for cigarette & nothing else!!

  12. jones says:

    Well this is a bit of an anti-climax!

    Surely more worth the effort of reporting if it was the size of Mount Everest………..

    What kind of damage could this inflict if it, say, hit Al goreys largest beachfront, sea-level property? Would he hear it from the bottom of the garden? Could the event be ascribed to AGW?

    I’m just asking.

  13. Lubos Motl says:

    That’s nice. Just to be sure, at least this big an asteroid comes this close to the Earth every 6 years or so, the page says. Those 10-meter objects would probably burn in the atmosphere if they wanted to hit us.

  14. John Marshall says:

    12,000Km is very close by astronomical standards. I hope, for once, NASA are right about its trajectory.

  15. H.R. says:

    It’s only a matter of time before the Earth gets whacked by one of those chunks of rock. Then we’ll see some real climate change.

  16. Patrick says:

    For some reason, Chicxulub has a great deal more to fear in terms of paleo-climatology than Carbon Dioxide levels well south of say, the Devonian Period.

  17. Dave Springer says:

    More worrisome? I don’t generally worry about things over which I cannot change. If I did it would be hard to think about anything other than dying and even then there wouldn’t much time spent thinking about dying from an asteroid strike, supervolcano eruption, or things like that. Maybe you need to say the serenity prayer a few times. Repeat after me.

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

  18. Allan M says:

    For a brief time, it will be bright enough to be seen even with a medium-sized backyard telescope.

    Yikes! Global warming from the reflection. Natural geoengineering.

  19. jaymam says:

    It’s worse than we thought!
    It looks like a hockey stick.
    Who made this discovery?

  20. Bryan says:

    Its good to compare this danger with the CO2 global warming scare.
    If anyone wanted to check out the evidence(data and calculations)
    JPL’s Near Earth Object Program office would be only to happy to supply evidence.
    Compare Michael Mann and Phil Jones reaction to such a request.
    Does that in itself not tell you something?

  21. Jeff says:

    If the asteroid is metallic, a 20 m diameter impact could ruin your day. You’re talking something near the Meteor Crater impactor size then.
    Jeff

  22. Tenuc says:

    No worries…

    Even at 20m it would ablate when it hit Earth’s outer atmosphere even if in line for a direct hit. However, I suspect the orbital calculations are well off and it will pass us much higher. Will be interesting to see what JPL admit to from the post event tracking system???

  23. John R. Walker says:

    I just hope the UK Met Office don’t try and model the possible outcomes or we’ll probably have to close earth down for 3 days…

  24. Robert says:

    10 meter in diameter, you could be unlucky and be hit by some leftovers after the meteorite breaks up at 20-15 km above ground. In fact the journey to the impact site poses a much greater risk, especially the rides by car from and to the different airports.

  25. Mike Spilligan says:

    It’s not worrying at all. There’s not enough time for the Revenue / Tax office to think up a plausible way to blame us and send a tax bill.

  26. Smokey says:

    $7 billion a year shoveled into “climate change” grants — and almost nothing for an early warning system for very real threats like this. If a good sized meteorite even hit the ocean, the resulting tsunami would make Japan’s recent tsunami look minor by comparison. click

  27. aaron says:

    Only 5-20m, but still far more worrisome than global warming.

  28. Peter Walsh says:

    John Marshall says:
    June 24, 2011 at 2:17 am

    12,000Km is very close by astronomical standards. I hope, for once, NASA are right about its trajectory.

    I ask:
    I wonder if NASA has their miles and their kilometres sorted out correctly this time..!

  29. Blade says:

    Let’s hope that NASA can pry itself away from fishing for Climate data to pump up scare stories, and instead re-task a few birds and their ground based equipment to gather real data for use in the future for the inevitable too-close-to-call scenario.

    Listen up NASA, if you want to survive as a taxpayer funded agency, you had better produce. That means photos and definitive telemetry about this object. Prove that you can still do space science. For starters we need to verify both this 4-day-out estimation of 5-20 meters in size and nearest distance of 7500 miles against real observations. Four days head start is a useful amount of time to get all-hands-on-deck for a data-gathering event.

    I expect a little more detail than the tiny press release shows, and am unimpressed by things like “Monday June 27 at about 9:30 EDT”. Do I really need to ask, is that 09:30 or 21:30? Can you pull one of your Climate Science Fictionists off their seemingly 24/7/365 fantasy trip and re-assign them to proofreading?

    It is stated that it lives in an orbit not unlike the Earth’s, but what is it’s orbital period? Also unmentioned is the likely perturbation of its current orbit during this approach and what can be expected on it’s next.

    Finally a personal pet peeve, “One would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average” is standard fare for pop-science reporting, but a professional would state the last time a similar sized object passed this close, how many times in total has it occurred (obviously they must have this data or else the 6-year chance is simply made up), and when is the next one that we know of.

    This tendency to give gambler’s estimates is clearly mainstream news media style-sheet meme. At best it is actuarial statistical analysis, but not pure Science, and just sounds very juvenile IMHO. Yes, you normally see a Royal Flush once every 40,000 hands, or it can happen twice in one day. They must be aware that the broader public reads that 6-year thing as a schedule! Science needs to get away from the guesswork and fear-mongering and get back to the facts, Jack.

    Get to work NASA!

  30. Mike Borgelt says:
    June 24, 2011 at 1:04 am
    What’s really concerning is the lack of warning time. How much more for a bigger one?

    That they saw it at all is amazing; 50 years ago even a mountain coming at us would be missed. Now back to the question: Are there now suddenly more of these little space pebbles, or can we just DETECT more of them? Sound, er, familiar?

  31. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ NEO Earth Close Approaches
    will get a tabular list of known past present and future (as far as they know so far)

  32. michel says:

    eco-geek, are you really saying that there is a mile wide object which flies through the skies over or near London regularly, and has been seen by lots of people over the last ten years, but somehow has escaped publicity and government detection? And that is going to land on earth sometime in the next ten years, probably Thanet, UK, and make a Very Big Hole?

    Really?

  33. Two page list of related information 2nd page as interesting as the first.
    http://search.nasa.gov/search/search.jsp?nasaInclude=near+earth+objects

  34. Alistair Ahs says:

    Off-topic:[snip]

    [reply] please repost on a thread where it isn’t. Thanks TB-mod

  35. Smoking Frog says:

    Blade said:
    Finally a personal pet peeve, “One would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average” is standard fare for pop-science reporting, but a professional would state the last time a similar sized object passed this close, how many times in total has it occurred (obviously they must have this data or else the 6-year chance is simply made up), and when is the next one that we know of.

    This tendency to give gambler’s estimates is clearly mainstream news media style-sheet meme. At best it is actuarial statistical analysis, but not pure Science, and just sounds very juvenile IMHO. Yes, you normally see a Royal Flush once every 40,000 hands, or it can happen twice in one day. They must be aware that the broader public reads that 6-year thing as a schedule! Science needs to get away from the guesswork and fear-mongering and get back to the facts, Jack.

    If you had everything you’re asking for, you might find that “6 years” was wrong, but you’d still have nothing more than the same kind of information, a result of “actuarial statistical analysis,” as you call it. Your complaint is nonsense.

  36. Geoff Sherrington says:

    jones says: June 24, 2011 at 2:05 am hit Al goreys largest beachfront, sea-level property? Would he hear it from the bottom of the garden?

    There are Ferraris at the bottom of that garden.
    ………………….

    More seriously, the NEO summary at
    C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\My Documents\gjs temp\Near Earth\JPL Small-Body Database Browser.mht
    still seems to list VK 184 as the main large-sized candidate in year 2048.

  37. Jimbo says:

    Let’s hope NASA hasn’t made another metric to imperial error. ;O)

    “…….one would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average. ” …….”7,500 miles”

    It’s something like this that’s more likely to cause abrupt climate change, but Warmists will say global warming expanded our atmosphere blah blah.

  38. omnologos says:

    the worrisome part is that there are geometries under which even a large asteroid would be invisible almost to the end to passive reckoning – imagine one approaching from the general direction of the Sun, showing us its night side…we need radars not just telescopes or any day we can get a nasty surprise ..

  39. Justthinkin says:

    Wait for it……next IPCC release…CO2 attracts meteorites and ateroids!

  40. woodNfish says:

    While this is an interesting article, I take issue with your headline; there is absolutely nothing worrisome about global warming. Nothing.

  41. TomRude says:

    If it were to hit, it would be no doubt because of global warming… sarc /off

  42. Mark Wagner CPA says:

    What’s really concerning is the lack of warning time. How much more for a bigger one?

    President: “We didn’t see this thing coming?”
    Truman: “Well, our object collison budget’s a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and beg’n your pardon sir, but it’s a big-ass sky.”

    -The Armageddon Prophesy, 1998

  43. brewster says:

    I may be wrong, but it appears that this space rock is coming from outside of the solar system orbital plane. If that is the case, it will probably not come back since it will probably be thrown clear of the solar system (or be pulled into the sun). Kudos to those who spotted it since asteroids from this direction are rare compared to asteroids originating from the plane.

  44. Mike Hebb says:

    Mike Borgelt says:
    June 24, 2011 at 1:04 am
    What’s really concerning is the lack of warning time. How much more for a bigger one?

    Check the link -
    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news172.html
    and go to the close approaches tab. They are projected out to October – sometimes 3 a day.
    Most aren’t so close but many are much larger.
    Mike

  45. Patrick Davis says:

    Given enough time there will be an ELE event which, again, will wipe most life off this rock. Can we do anything about it? Unlikely, IMO. Will alarmists blame human activity for any such events? Probably. That is until our star BURNS the rock which, all life as we know it, exists.

    But we still have alarmists to deal with. I was responding to a post on the SMH website here in Australia. A commenter with a handle of “Vege” claimed that CO2 WAS killing the planet. I thought the post and handle were rather ironic, given the fact that CO2 is plant food, wasn’t sure if the peroson was being sarcastic or not. If not, then this person is seriously misinformed.

  46. Jim G says:

    woodNfish says:
    June 24, 2011 at 7:08 am
    “While this is an interesting article, I take issue with your headline; there is absolutely nothing worrisome about global warming. Nothing”

    Oh, contrare, potential and historical Impactors could, and have, had a great deal to do with the climate of this planet.

  47. derspatz says:

    Eco-Geek, I too have seen what you have described re: “Wreathed in ruddy orange flame its surface features – ridges and hollows – were clearly visible. It had some rotation and was completely silent implying a height well in excess of 25 miles as there was no sonic boom”.

    I was in the middle of a night watch on the STS Leeuwin (a “tall ship”) somewhere off Onslow of the coast of Western Australia and in calm seas (we had recently gone through a horror storm that lasted days and had ruined one of the main sails and nearly all of us had got sick so it was nice to be in quiet and calm again). 1993 I think. Everyone awake and on deck at that time saw it, a massive rolling ball of flame that pinwheeled its way slowly across the sky from horizon to horizon.

    It wasn’t silent though … it sort of had a very low deep roar to it as it lumbered across the sky. It seemed so big and close that we expected it to splash down in sight of us but no, it must have been far bigger than we thought and far higher, for it really did disappear over the horizon.

    I expect folk on boats and ships see this sort of thing all the time but it certainly was a real treat for us, especially after what we had recently been through with the “go home to port” weather that we had been trapped in going no where for days.

    regarDS

  48. Alan the Brit says:

    If NASA got it wrong, this could a case of the news flash – “a bullet missed a man’s ear today by 3″, it went straight between his eyes!” :-) HAGWE

  49. DesertYote says:

    The Meteorite that I saw, when I was a kid, that streak across the evening sky before slamming into the desert between Phoenix and Tucson was probably 3 M before entering the atmosphere. I think the real story here is that this little thing was detected at all. That in itself is pretty awesome, especially considering its orbit!

  50. Jeremy says:

    You can’t say it’s not at all worrying. A 20 meter asteroid of unknown composition (which this one is) can either be a loose collection of dirt, or a highly dense fragment of an exploded planets core. We have no idea what kind of metal/density this thing has. We can only judge it by light reflected off of it. Now if someone picks up two pieces of earth and asks you which one you want to be hit with, are you going to be satisfied with just looking at those rocks in low illumination to tell you which one would hurt worse? No, you’ll generally want to touch/feel and get some idea of weight and sturdiness. Apollo survived re-entry every time, and it was far less than 20 meters in cross-section. 20 Meters of dense carbon or iron might as well be a nuclear bomb if it entered our atmosphere.

    That said, no I’m not at all worried about this one.

  51. NikFromNYC says:

    There is nothing new under the sun, as red flows from green.

    “Next day, the dawn was a brilliant, fiery red and I wandered through the weird and lurid landscape of another planet, for the vegetation which gives Mars its red appearance had taken root on Earth. As man had succumbed to the Martians, so our land now succumbed to the red weed.

    Wherever there was a stream the red weed clung and grew with frightening voraciousness, its claw-like fronds choking the movement of the water. And then it began to creep like a slimy red animal across the land covering field and ditch and tree and hedgerow with living scarlet feelers, crawling, crawling.”

    That is the original H. G. Wells version of what Orson Welles turned into a purposeful warning not about aliens but about mass hysteria via his green Martian attack radio spoof on the radio (now immortalized on YouTube).

    Related to the alarmist view of skeptics themselves as alien outsiders of groupthink, I dedicate the following quote from a movie produced as “n*ps in flying ships” bombed Pear Harbor, to James “Death Train” Hansen:

    “Something had happened, a thing which years ago had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town. And now it came at last: George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance. He’d got it three times filled and running over. But those who had longed for it were not there to see it. And they never knew it, those who were still living had forgotten all about it, and all about him.” – Orson Welles (introductory voiceover to the movie “The Magnificent Ambersons”)

  52. Magnus says:

    Meteroids are considered part of the positive feedback system. This is all in line with CAGW models.

  53. DonS says:

    @ecogeek: ‘ which “distended” three fingers at arms length’. Did you possibly mean to say “subtended” three fingers?

  54. kwik says:

    John R. Walker says:
    June 24, 2011 at 3:19 am

    “I just hope the UK Met Office don’t try and model the possible outcomes or we’ll probably have to close earth down for 3 days…”

    They would probably come up with some scenarios. Some of the scenarios would say it will be a hit, and some wouldnt……And afterwards they could say they were right!

  55. pwl says:

    Asteroids and meteors are always a concern. Death from the skies and all.

    “2008 TC3 (Catalina Sky Survey temporary designation 8TA9D69) was a meteoroid 2 to 5 meters (7 to 16 ft) in diameter and weighting 80 tonnes,[1] that entered Earth’s atmosphere on October 7, 2008, at 02:46 UTC (05:46 local time).[2] The meteoroid was notable as the first such body to be observed and tracked prior to reaching Earth.[3] It exploded an estimated 37 kilometers (23 mi) above the Nubian Desert in Sudan. A search of the impact zone that began on December 2008 turned up 10.5 kilograms (23 lb) of meteorites in 600 fragments, which are surviving pieces of the meteoroid. The meteorites are of a rare type known as ureilites, which contain, among other minerals, nanodiamonds.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_TC3

  56. pwl says:

    “Is Asteroid 2011 MD Space Junk?
    When I was working up the details for yesterday’s story on asteroid 2011 MD, I gasped when I looked at the orbit diagram. Not only does this body’s orbit intersect Earth’s, but it’s also in the same plane (within a few degrees), and moving at almost the same velocity. Somehow, it seemed unlikely to be an accident!”
    http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/124484634.html

  57. ShrNfr says:

    I always find the topic of meteors and asteroids striking. Actually, I have an adze that was made out of a 2×5 inch meteorite that landed in Tibet aka “sky iron” coming to me for my collection. The fella probably started off life a bit bigger than that.

  58. Douglas DC says:

    Two scenarios here:
    1. Stardate 22630: Captain’s log supplemental: as ordered by Starfleet, The survey ship YEAGER
    was able to clean up the last of the near-earth threatening asteroids. The Vulcan high command
    says it was the”Logical Thing ” to do. We appreciate the complement.”
    2. “I write this from the camp of the Blue/Green People. the Chief does not know I have an ink pen
    and paper-those being outlawed by the King Algore the 14th, We are to go to the great Tipi and
    fall at the feet of the Stone Profit to pray to Gaia that she somehow averts the giant asteroid
    that is heading to the earth”. “The astronomer who had an illegal telescope was beheaded this morning as a sacrifice one for having the telescope and two for making this discovery.” “Now,
    we are at the mercy of Gaia and she is unhappy with us!” “I hate going out and having to dress
    in my furs as it is Year of our Profit 2022 6 and 30… spring is not due for another 3 weeks…”
    OK? whch one will it be?

  59. Wil says:

    Many of you have seen Comet Hyakutake with your own eyes which raced by the Earth in March 1996. What was truly worrying here was Comet Hyakutake (discovered by a Japanese armature astronomy buff hence the name) was discovered only 7 weeks earlier! If it had been headed for a collision with Earth, 7 weeks would not have given us time to prepare and implement a successful diversion program.

    For asteroids orbiting the sun, the maximum speed at 1 AU, where the earth resides, is about 41 km/sec or ~ 100,000 mph.

    They move faster closer to the sun, and slower further away.

    For example, the earth (at 1 AU) travels about 30 km/sec in it’s near circular orbit; that 41 km/sec is more likely for a comet on a highly elliptical orbit. If it travels (or is accelerated) beyond that speed, it is no longer bound to the sun and will leave the solar system.

    Most asteroids orbit the sun in the same direction as the earth, so approach the earth from behind or the side at speeds between 5 and 30 km/sec; then of course they are accelerated by the earth’s gravity to a minimum speed of 11.2 km/sec, about 25,000 mph before hitting the atmosphere. That’s for an asteroid (or meteoroid) that is traveling at zero speed relative to the earth before gravitational capture.

    A few comets, which are in retrograde orbit (and the meteors that come from them) hit the earth head on at a combined speed of nearly 72 km/sec and produce the fastest meteors. They include comet Tempel-Tuttle (parent of the Leonids), Comet Swift-Tuttle (parent of the Perseids) and of course Halley’s comet, parent of the eta-Aquarid andOrionid meteor showers, however there are no known asteroids in such orbits.

    The fastest asteroid that is on the current JPL risk page is 2005 EL 70, approaching at 35.5 km/sec. After adding in the effect of the earth’s gravity, it will hit whip past at 37.2 km/sec or 83,214 mph.

    While this present asteroid flyby is no danger to earth a meteorite which is 50 meters (150 feet) or more in diameter can wipe out an entire city. A larger meteorite hitting the ocean would cause tsunamis, huge waves which could wipe out all of the coastal cities on the shores of that ocean. A meteorite several kilometers in diameter (more than a mile) would cause global firestorms, trigger massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, and terminate human civilization and most “higher” species of life on Earth. For example, a 10 km (6 mile diameter) meteorite struck the Yucatan region of Mexico 65 million years ago, wiping out many species including the dinosaurs, who had successfully lived on the Earth far longer than have the humans. The Chicxulub crater which resulted is more than 180 km (100 miles) in diameter.

  60. Mac the Knife says:

    Hmmmmmm….
    Which should we be more concerned about and focus our limited dollars on detection and prevention?
    1. Space rocks that have a real potential to impact the planet this year, with anywhere from ‘pretty lights’ to ‘extinction event’ devastation effects?
    2. The potential addition of 10 parts per million of CO2 to the atmosphere this year?

    Hmmmmm….. tough decision…… /sarc off

  61. TonyG says:

    Although much smaller than (fictional comet) Hamner-Brown, the timing of this is mildly amusing to me, as I am in the middle of Lucifer’s Hammer (Larry Niven / Jerry Pournelle)

    It’s a good read – kinda puts a few things in perspective.

  62. Mark Wilson says:

    When they measure distance, are they doing it from the surface or are they doing it from the center of the earth?

    I wonder what the path would have looked like had the moon been on the other side of the earth?

  63. Mark Wilson says:

    pwl says:
    June 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

    The idea that the upper stage of a rocket designed to launch a satellite into earth orbit could somehow escape earth’s orbit is, in my opinion, utterly absurd.

  64. Roger Knights says:

    “Everyone awake and on deck at that time saw it, a massive rolling ball of flame that pinwheeled its way slowly across the sky from horizon to horizon.”

    There are accounts of similar things in Charles Fort’s books. See also Ch. 2 of the Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena by William J. Corliss

  65. Mac the Knife says:

    TonyG says:
    June 24, 2011 at 10:13 am
    “Although much smaller than (fictional comet) Hamner-Brown, the timing of this is mildly amusing to me, as I am in the middle of Lucifer’s Hammer (Larry Niven / Jerry Pournelle)”

    Hot Fudge Sunday!!!!! };>)

  66. LED says:

    Near miss, Grand Teton National Park, 1972.

  67. Jim G says:

    Jeremy says:

    June 24, 2011 at 8:12 am

    “You can’t say it’s not at all worrying. A 20 meter asteroid of unknown composition (which this one is) can either be a loose collection of dirt, or a highly dense fragment of an exploded planets core. We have no idea what kind of metal/density this thing has. We can only judge it by light reflected off of it. Now if someone picks up two pieces of earth and asks you which one you want to be hit with, are you going to be satisfied with just looking at those rocks in low illumination to tell you which one would hurt worse? No, you’ll generally want to touch/feel and get some idea of weight and sturdiness. Apollo survived re-entry every time, and it was far less than 20 meters in cross-section. 20 Meters of dense carbon or iron might as well be a nuclear bomb if it entered our atmosphere.”

    I would think that its orbital path, velocity and apparent size (unknown reflectivity is probably the problem here) would allow one to estimate its mass and density, given enough data points along its orbit. But that may be the problem since its flyby is Monday.

  68. Jeremy says:

    Jim G says:
    June 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I would think that its orbital path, velocity and apparent size (unknown reflectivity is probably the problem here) would allow one to estimate its mass and density, given enough data points along its orbit. But that may be the problem since its flyby is Monday.

    You can boundary the mass, but density is another matter. Apparent size can also be deceiving. This problem suffers from a similar problem as icebergs, you can only see the parts that are reflecting. Most bodies have some form of rotation, but we still can’t be sure we’re seeing all of it. Also, I don’t trust optical techniques to tell us the composition of any body floating around in space. You’re essentially only getting what the first opaque layer tells you, with no information from the inside. I would call the asteroid classification techniques available to us currently as only good enough to be tools for further research, not a miracle tricorder. We certainly can gather some information, but it’s dangerous to trust it just like it’s dangerous to sail near “small” icebergs.

  69. Every six years? Ay, caramba!

    Had we been prepared, this would have been a great opportunity to test our asteroid defense system. Send a rocket up with a nuke, set to explode abeam and inside the curve. If the asteroid isn’t destroyed, the near side would vaporize, generating a thrust that would deflect the asteroid’s path.

  70. Dr A Burns says:

    Have some fun playing with the calculator here:
    http://www.purdue.edu/impactearth

    It shows that if it does hit, depending on various parameters:

    “The projectile begins to breakup at an altitude of 37300 meters = 122000 ft

    Large fragments strike the surface and may create a crater strewn field. A more careful treatment of atmospheric entry is required to accurately estimate the size-frequency distribution of meteoroid fragments and predict the number and size of craters formed.

    The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth during the last 4 billion years is 1.1 x 10^3 years “

  71. R. Shearer says:

    Whew that was close! Could have ruined a perfectly good weekend.

    I guess if it’s going to hit, Monday would be good time, right after my morning coffee.

  72. SSam says:

    Well, here is the certitude (Thank you Mr Tweet for bringing that word back from obscurity). Eventually.. not maybe, not probably, but eventually, the Earth will get whacked.

    Just think about all that money that could go towards finding these short notice rocks with at least enough time to evacuate a city or a region that could catch these rogue fly balls.

    But no… got to grub every last dime in order to push the Evirozealot Cult agenda.

  73. Mark Wagner CPA says:

    Send a rocket up with a nuke, set to explode abeam and inside the curve. If the asteroid isn’t destroyed, the near side would vaporize, generating a thrust that would deflect the asteroid’s path.

    You never studied.

    Ronald Quincy: “Imagine a firecracker in the palm of your hand. You set it off, what happens? You burn your hand, right? You close your fist around the same firecracker and set it off. Your wife’s gonna be opening your ketchup bottles the rest of your life.”

    -The Armageddon Prophesy, 1998

    Seriously, though, nukes are designed to hit a fixed target in a ballistic trajectory. Hitting a target moving at 100,000 mph with a big, clunky liquid fueled rocket is next to impossible with current technology. Even if you had maneuvering fuel left after you got there. And the more fuel you have when you get there, the earlier you have to launch because you’ll have to get there slower. And remember, there’s no air in space, so no shock wave. You’d have to get pretty close for the expanding mass of the explosion itself to appreciably move a big rock.

    No, I don’t think it’s possible today, nor in the forseeable future.

    But what do I know? I’m a CPA.

  74. fizixnut says:

    when i was going to college in the 80′s i belonged to ” Final Frontier” & ” The Planetary Society ” as well as studying physics & astronomy. all i can say is that we’ve come a very long way in locating & tracking asteroids & other objects in space. the projects & missions currently engaged in by nasa were no more than fiction back then. Planetary Society president Carl Sagan wrote wonderful books on this very sort of thing. the problems involved in locating & tracking anything in space are daunting at best. it only looks easy in the movies. the amazing thing is that they can actually do much of it at all. the solution to why nasa doesn’t spend more time & money on this problem will come when “you the people” convince your elected officials that its needed. then many at nasa who have dreamed of nothing their entire lives but space exploration & discovery would be thrilled to develope a better, more accurate, more thorough system. remember its the politicians who decide how much nasa spends & on what

    even a 5 meter oblect would be catastrophic if it was made of the right stuff. like try anti-mater.
    at which point ALL other issues on earth would be moot.

    of course we wouldn’t be able to determine that it was anti-mater just by looking at it, since the photon (light) is it’s own anti-particle anyways. even a golf ball sized meteorite of anti-mater could be major.
    so quality not quantity is the all important factor when determining how dangerous a near earth object might be.

    better we be hit by a mountain sized fluff-ball than a grapefruit sized chunk of brown dwarf.

  75. fizixnut says:

    only one major problem with the blow it up idea. we have to know what an asteroid is made of before deciding how to deal with it. if we try to blow up the wrong type of asteroid on a collision course with earth, we might actually make the problem worse. that is currently one of the big issues being addressed by nasa & others. figuring out what things in space are made of remotely.
    so first we have to locate an object, then determine it’s trajectory, then determine what it’s made of, then we can start figuring out what to do about it. it’s all easier said than done.

  76. Blade says:

    Blade [June 24, 2011 at 3:53 am] says:

    “Finally a personal pet peeve, “One would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average” is standard fare for pop-science reporting, but a professional would state the last time a similar sized object passed this close, how many times in total has it occurred (obviously they must have this data or else the 6-year chance is simply made up), and when is the next one that we know of.

    This tendency to give gambler’s estimates is clearly mainstream news media style-sheet meme. At best it is actuarial statistical analysis, but not pure Science, and just sounds very juvenile IMHO. Yes, you normally see a Royal Flush once every 40,000 hands, or it can happen twice in one day. They must be aware that the broader public reads that 6-year thing as a schedule! Science needs to get away from the guesswork and fear-mongering and get back to the facts, Jack.”

    Smoking Frog [June 24, 2011 at 5:06 am] says:

    “If you had everything you’re asking for, you might find that “6 years” was wrong, but you’d still have nothing more than the same kind of information, a result of “actuarial statistical analysis,” as you call it. Your complaint is nonsense.”

    Well I *did* say it was a personal pet peeve, but I’m not sure why you consider it nonsense though. To expect an organization which allegedly employs scientific professionals that I and other taxpayers fund, and which did set a very high standard during the Apollo years, well, to act and sound professionally rather than like Omni Magazine or Erich Von Daniken seems a no-brainer. Apparently you disagree, yes?

    The statement “One would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average” is utterly meaningless. It does imply that there is some factual statistical data lying around, specifically a count of similarly sized close encounters, which then underwent some very rudimentary division to develop that lame statement (either that or it was completely made up). You might even say that the statement in question, like so much AGW nonsense, is a form of smoothing of the real raw data for public consumption. Why not simply state the real data and let readers smooth it for themselves by dividing the quantity of flybys by number of years. We are paying for this data, not some homogenized interpretation.

    What exactly is the minimum expectation you have for NASA anyway? Presumably you are a USA taxpayer, correct? Well this is what we call taxpayer feedback, feedback from the employers (taxpayers) to the employees (public servants). Do you work for NASA? Just asking.

    Anyway, the larger point of my comment is that this is a tiny little ‘press release’, actually more like a Twitter post and does not strike me as high caliber. This does not sound like the NASA that walked Apollo 13 down from the brink. But as usual, YMMV.

  77. RoHa says:

    We’re doomed!

  78. fizixnut says:

    we’re not doomed.

    2012 is right around the corner. four days before christmas 2012 & all our problems are over. no fuss no muss. sweet, simple, sooo overdue.

    when the calendar ends all earths problems will simply go poof.

    is it just me? or have earth’s catastrophic problems really escalated in the last 20 years?

    asteroids, comets, coronal mass ejections, neuclear meltdowns, bleached coral reefs, no more fish in the ocean (soon, anyhow), super volcanos, WW3, economic collapse, global warming, rising sea levels, radical weather, & on & on it goes. to top it all off, numerous calendars end soon.

    so if i choose to live in denial is it folly or prudence in this case?

  79. berfel says:

    OMG! I’m going to be on an inter-continental flight at the time.

    Imagine how much that increases the risk! ;-)

  80. Blade says:

    Presently it is June 27 at almost 08:30, one hour before the originally scheduled time. NASA appears to have modified that press release and pushed the time forward to 1:00 PM …

    “Near-Earth asteroid 2011 MD will pass only 12,300 kilometers (7,600 miles) above the Earth’s surface on Monday June 27 at about 1:00 PM EDT. The asteroid was discovered by the LINEAR near-Earth object discovery team observing from Socorro, New Mexico. The diagram on the left shows the trajectory of 2011 MD projected onto the Earth’s orbital plane over a four-day interval. The diagram on the left gives another view from the general direction of the Sun that indicates that 2011 MD will reach its closest Earth approach point in extreme southern latitudes (in fact over the southern Atlantic Ocean). This small asteroid, only 5-20 meters in diameter, is in a very Earth-like orbit about the Sun, but an orbital analysis indicates there is no chance it will actually strike Earth on Monday. The incoming trajectory leg passes several thousand kilometers outside the geosynchronous ring of satellites and the outgoing leg passes well inside the ring. One would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average. For a brief time, it will be bright enough to be seen even with a modest-sized telescope.”

  81. Blade says:

    Just to complete this thread …

    Asteroid Buzzes Earth in Close Shave: First Photos
    by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
    Date: 27 June 2011 Time: 01:46 PM ET

    http://www.space.com/12086-asteroid-2011-md-buzzes-earth-pictures.html

    Also a relatively long video of the approach …

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCN77UZ2RUo

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