The Sky is Falling!
If I ever find myself channel surfing on the television and come across the 1998 film Armageddon, I normally stop to watch. Like many of you, I have seen the Bruce Willis–Ben Affleck film so many times that I can basically quote it from memory, but it’s still pretty entertaining.
And before last month, it also seemed kind of far-fetched. Now I’m not so sure.
It all started in February when that meteor exploded over southwestern Russia, injuring more than a thousand people and destroying property (especially windows) for miles around. The same day, a huge asteroid passed within 17,000 miles of Earth.
Sounds a little like Armageddon, don’t you think?
I’ve heard that neither of these pose any threat to our planet, but you never know.
What worries me more is a huge asteroid that’s scheduled to pass by Saturday afternoon. It’s supposedly the size of a city block, around 260 feet wide. At its closest, it should be roughly 600,000 miles away from the Earth, which translates to more than twice the distance from the Earth to the moon.
In other words, we should be good. There haven’t been any warnings on the news and people aren’t rioting in the streets, so I assume we’re safe from this space rock.
But there will be others.
The frightening thing about this massive asteroid is that scientists only discovered it last Sunday. Humans don’t yet have the technology to find large objects like this one until they get pretty close. Our telescopes just aren’t strong enough.
Here’s what this means to me: there could be an asteroid of planet-killing size heading right for us. And if there is, we will only get a week’s advance notice before it slams into Earth and destroys every trace of life on our planet.
Okay. That sounds a little paranoid, but it certainly could be true. I certainly hope not, but it is mathematically possible.
Of course, the mathematical possibility of this happening used to be one in a zillion or something—or so we all heard around the time Armageddon was released—but it looks like the odds have improved, at least from the asteroid’s perspective.
Hypothetically speaking, what would have happened if this huge asteroid (known as 2013ET) impacted the Earth rather than floating by it? For a scientific explanation, I turn to Marshall Brain, founder of HowStuffWorks.com, and his essay “What if an asteroid hit the Earth?” He actually describes the potential consequences of a 200 foot asteroid hitting our planet. Granted, 2013ET is slightly larger, but this should give you a good idea:
If the asteroid is as big as a 20-story building (200 feet on a side), it has an amount of energy equal to the largest nuclear bombs made today — on the order of 25 to 50 megatons. An asteroid like this would flatten reinforced concrete buildings five miles from ground zero. It would completely destroy most major cities in the United States.
That’s pretty scary, if you ask me. And if 2013ET were a mile wide (over 5000 feet), all life as we know it would end. Thank goodness neither of these happened.
At least for now.
But the Big One could be out there somewhere, slowly drifting towards Earth and bringing with it what all humans fear: the real Armageddon.
Someone better have Bruce Willis on standby!
Posted on March 9, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged Armageddon, Asteroid, Bruce Willis, commentary, current-events, Earth, news, Pan-STARRS, perspectives, science, Space. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.