portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

environment | sustainability | technology

Did you know...Earth was almost put on asteroid impact alert

This just in from the BBC and it tells of an near strike from asteroid
that happened to be in our area of the cosmos. Actually, we are being
invaded by a lot of "stuff" right now and this was known for some time
that such would be the case. Now, you'll recall the postings/comments
the other day on CHEMTRAILS? Well, there is a relationship between the
intruders in our skies and the CHEMTRAILS, or so, it's claimed so by a
number of reputable scientific investigators. Anyway, if you not looked
up into your sky lately, now is a good time to look and get acquainted,
as you never know WHAT's inbound, and are you stupid enough to think
you're government would tell you if it was? Don't count on it!
reposting

Earth almost put on impact alert
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Astronomers have revealed how they came within minutes of alerting the world to a potential asteroid strike last month.
Some scientists believed on 13 January that a 30m object, later designated 2004 AS1, had a one-in-four chance of hitting the planet within 36 hours.

It could have caused local devastation and the researchers contemplated a call to President Bush before new data finally showed there was no danger.

The procedures for raising the alarm in such circumstances are now being revised.

At the time, the president's team would have been putting the final touches to a speech he was due to make the following day at the headquarters of Nasa, the US space agency.

In it he planned to reset the course of manned spaceflight, sending it back to the Moon and on to Mars, but he could have had something very different to say.


If... the call had been made to the president it would have been disastrous
Brian Marsden, Minor Planet Center
He could have begun by warning the world it was about to be hit by a space rock.
Bush would not have known where it would impact - only somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Experts would have been bouncing radar signals off the huge rock as he spoke in order to get more information about its trajectory.

At about 30m wide, the asteroid was cosmic small fry, not the type of thing to wipe out the dinosaurs or threaten our species, but still big enough to cause considerable damage after exploding in the atmosphere.

Potentially, the loss of life could have been much worse than 11 September.

In the end, Bush made no such announcement, but astronomers have admitted they were on the verge of making the call.

Shall we call the President?

In a paper presented at this week's Planetary Protection conference in California, veteran asteroid researcher Clark Chapman calls it a "nine-hour crisis".

He explains how word reached the astronomical community of an asteroid that had just been discovered by the twin optical telescopes of the Linear automated sky survey in New Mexico.


The Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts - the clearing house for such observations - posted details on the internet requesting attention from astronomers, one of whom noticed something peculiar.
The object was expected to grow 40-times brighter in the next day - a possible sign that it was getting closer, very rapidly.

But with data from just four observations available, the uncertainties were large. There were many possible orbits the object could be on, and the majority of them did not threaten the Earth.

What to do? Tell the world about the uncertain situation or wait for more data?

For some astronomers, events reached a crescendo when Steven Chesley, a researcher at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, looked at the available data and sent an e-mail saying the asteroid had a 25% chance of striking the Earth's Northern Hemisphere in a few days.

It was then that astronomers Clark Chapman and David Morrison, chair of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Near Earth Objects, contemplated picking up the telephone to the White House.

'Jumped the gun'

But many astronomers did not agree that waking up President Bush would have been wise.

"They completely misread the situation," said Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. "There was plenty of time to get other observers on the job."

Others also believe the call would have been premature.

"That would have jumped the gun before we knew much about the object," said Brian Marsden, of the Minor Planet Center.


"I find it incredible that such action was contemplated on the basis of just four observations. That is just not enough to yield a sensible orbit.
"There was no need to panic as it was obvious that the situation would have been resolved, one way or another, in another hour or two," he told BBC News Online.

Fortunately for all concerned, shortly after the ominous Chesley e-mail, an amateur astronomer managed to dodge the clouds and take a picture of a blank patch of sky.

This was significant because if 2004 AS1 really was going to hit the Earth, it would have been in the amateur's sights. The fact that it was absent meant the rock would not strike us.

But Chapman says in his presentation that if it had been cloudy, and no more observations could have been obtained at the time, he would have raised the alarm.

Marsden disagrees. "If it had been cloudy and the call had been made to the President it would have been disastrous."

Many astronomers recognise that they a false alarm could have brought ridicule on their profession. They are calling for more planning and less panic if it should happen for real next time.

And 2004 AS1? It turned out to be bigger than anyone had thought - about 500m wide. It eventually passed the Earth at a distance of about 12 million km - 32 times the Earth-Moon distance, posing no danger to us whatsoever.


Story from BBC NEWS:
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/3517319.stm

Published: 2004/02/24 17:33:49 GMT
Who Ya Gonna Call? 25.Feb.2004 23:49

et

How is it that the first thoughts are to "call bu($)h"? And why? And then to further agonize about it?

for what it's worth... 26.Feb.2004 08:01

Chardman

I recently read an article about the discovery of asteroids and how they assign a high threat level to them until their trajectory can be plotted.
Kind of like how a doctor would treat a suspicious bump or cyst; until it's fully scrutinized, it's assumed to be an imminent threat.
Don't know if all that applies to this case or not.
I wonder if they'd tell us if a planet killer was on the way?

at the peak of the cycle 26.Feb.2004 08:20

Sheepdog

every 67 million years (give or take a few million years) there has been
an extinction cycle attributed to impacts of objects from space.
The last event was 65 million years ago.

There have been several near misses in my life time. One was from a body that would have brought death to much, if not all of life on earth.
It came inside the orbital distance of the moon and was only known about as it was reseeding at miles per second.
As a species, we're not too bright about survival.