Should You Be Scared Of The Incoming Asteroid?

An asteroid expected to hurtle past Earth next week will fly within range of communication satellites but will not hit the planet, experts said today.

Known as 2012 DA14, the asteroid is around 45 metres in diameter and is on track to whiz within 27,700km above Earth’s surface next Friday at around 9.24am AEDT, a record close call for an asteroid of this size.

The US space agency NASA said “there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth. Nevertheless, the flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close.”

Professor Phil Bland, an asteroid expert and ARC Laureate Fellow at Curtin University said such a close visit would help scientists better prepare for an asteroid that was actually on track to hit Earth.

“One of the things we are interested in is if we saw something coming that we thought might be a problem, would we be able to track it accurately enough to know whether we should try to deflect it or do something about it?” he said, adding that even at 45m across, 2012 DA14 was still considered a smallish asteroid.

“In terms of its effect on Earth, if it hit us it would still make a reasonable mess. That’s a bit bigger than the one that blew up over part of Siberia in the beginning of the 20th century, called Tunguska,” he said.

“No one saw that one coming. It was a huge fireball that came in and blew up around 10km in altitude over part of Siberia and really devastated a huge area. It’s the same sort of energy as a big nuclear blast.”

That blast created shock waves powerful enough to flatten trees and houses, he said.

“If this one next week did hit us, it’d do something like that, it would be more likely to blow up in the atmosphere than on the ground. But we are safe and sound, they know where it’s going to be. This one is not going to hit us, we will not have any trouble at all.”

Professor Trevor Ireland from the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences said between two and 40 tonnes of extraterrestrial material entered Earth’s atmosphere a day.

“Most of the meteorites or shooting stars you see are the size of grains of sand or a match head but they come into the Earth’s atmosphere fast, at about 16km per second,” he said.

“The solar system is rather active. Even though we look up in the night sky and see not much happening, there’s certainly a lot of activity in the asteroid belt.”

Next week’s asteroid follows the release of a new scientific paper, published in the journal Science, that presented new evidence linking a giant asteroid impact in Mexico with the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

“These researchers have been able to find something dating the end of the dinosaurs as well as the impact and it’s getting close. It’s removing any doubt that dinosaurs were wiped out following that incident,” Professor Ireland said, adding that the impact, which caused the Chicxulub crater, may have coincided with a period of high volcanic activity.

“[The asteroid] was potentially ejecting sulfates and carbonates which put nasty chemicals into the air and block out the sunlight. You put that on top of the volcanoes at the time and you have something that could be quite toxic to the lungs of larger animals.”

Professor Ireland said the new evidence showed that “something really nasty happened there for the dinosaurs.”

“The good news is their departure allowed for the rise of mammals like us. So it’s swings and roundabouts.”

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


Comments

    Should You Be Scared Of The Incoming Asteroid? Given that this has been covered a couple of times very recently, explaining that it isn't a threat, I'm guessing the answer is no!!

      That, and Betteridge's Law.

    So where will it be flying over? Any chance of actually seeing it in Melbourne?

    Known as 2012 DA14, the asteroid is around 45 metres in diameter and is on track to whiz within 27,700km above Earth’s surface next Friday at around 9.24am AEDT, a record close call for an asteroid of this size.

    Maybe someone can help me out here.

    Yeah, that's close relative to the size of the universe but it's still a long long fkn way. I am not sure why people get worried about "close" when close is the length of 7 Australia's

      Perhaps because the scientists say "Man, this is pretty close compared to the other ones we've had" and the uninformed instantly conclude "It's close! It must be only a kilometer away! We're going to die!"?

    More than twice the diameter of the Earth close. So not that close.

      I dislike how NASA and friends dismiss things like this as 'impossible' as any scientist knows nothing is impossible, therefor they constantly lie out their ass to stop a panic.

      For instance, what if this particular asteroid hit some old rocket stage junk, of which there is literally tons of floating around Earths surrounding space? Or even hitting a smaller slow moving asteroid is not a stretch to say an event like this could alter its course slightly or break off a chunk that could.

      Not saying this one is the asteroid that's going to bring about Armageddon though, any asteroid travelling at that speed/distance is a threat to some extent, small maybe, but not impossible.

      It may be "more than twice the diameter of the Earth" however the distance puts it effectively "passing between us and the Moon". That's close by Earth standard.

    After watching the movie Gassland on SBS last week I'm more worried about fracking and so should you be...

    Not much we could do if it does hit.

      Evacuate the city it's going to hit, perhaps? That strikes me as something we could do.

        Advise everyone to get to underground shelters so that they might not be incinerated if by chance their area was subjected to an atmospheric explosion? Might save a few lives that way.

    Comparing this to the Tunguska explosion? Oh ffs please.
    Unless this came down right in the fricken middle of NYC it wouldn't even be noticed. From what they know it's just a common non-metalic meteorite.

    The Tunguska event was "probably" an asteroid composed of solid methane ice which is what caused the "air burst" when it entered the atmosphere and hence the damage.

    Talk about a beat up.

    Yes, I'm a little concerned. In most of the graphics I've seen, this object passes the Moon or within the Moon's gravity field for about 8 to 24 hours before it gets to the 17,200 mile distance it is to miss to the "right" of Earth. Since most graphic animations show the Moon's position as being to the left of this asteroid, I'm wondering why the Moon's gravity won't pull the object to the left. Even if it is a slight pull, the asteroid still has many hours afterward to travel to Earth. Another 500,000 miles after it enters the gravity of the Moon. However, I will admit that I'm not sure how close the Moon is to the object. I'd feel better though if someone was asking astronomers if the effect of the Moon's gravity had been calculated. I know that often an asteroids path is calculated with OUT factoring in another object working on it. Because those factors of how far an object will be deviated by another planetary body aren't typically knowable until after the fact. I do know that this object will be passing within 18,000 miles of Earth. This automatically puts it within the gravity field of the Moon. The moon is 238,000 miles from Earth...but it manages to move billions of tons of water as a tidal shift every day on our planet. So I question why it couldn't move a small asteroid a few feet to the left at 1 million miles out. That few feet to the left, when extended over time, could mean it is 17,200 miles closer to Earth at a later point in its trajectory., thus striking our planet.
    With this object approaching from the "South" of our planet, I would be very concerned that a possible strike could come in the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, or Australia. Given that these areas would be the first areas approached by the object.
    Before my concerns are dismissed, I'd like to remind everyone that Nasa once crashed a climate orbiter on Mars, wasting 250 million American dollars, because it forgot to change English measurements to metric. So pardon me for saying that I think asking a few more questions about whether the effect of another stellar object such as the Moon on this asteroid has already been calculated.
    Please prove me wrong by addressing these concerns. I would welcome an exact discussion that scientifically explains why I'm being an idiot.

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