Jacology: Wake Up Call On Asteroids

(KPLR) – In Friday's Jacology, Charles Jaco explains why a little fear over flying objects from the sky isn't crazy.

This has been a week for close encounters. A meteorite slams into Russia. An asteroid barely slips past the planet. And as in the case of every event where global apocalypse is threatened, we have a black president.

Think about it. In the 1998 movie Deep Impact, the earth faces extinction from a giant asteroid. And who's president? Morgan Freeman. In the movie 2012, the earth ends because the Mayans were right and the apocalypse ensures. The President? Danny Glover. So now Barack Obama's the president and of course the asteroid belt drops by for a visit.

That of course is silly. But keeping an eye out for near earth objects that could cause the kind of mess that wiped out the dinosaurs? That is anything but silly. The Russian asteroid weighed an estimated ten to eleven tons and was about thirty feet across. And we didn’t see it coming; that's because we're only aware of about two per-cent of all asteroids smaller than a hundred feet across.

The other asteroid, the one that missed earth by 17 thousand miles is called 2012 DA14. It’s about 150 feet across. Objects that large can be spotted in advance, but not by much. A mountaintop digital camera in Hawaii can spot most objects larger than 900 feet across. One of those hitting could wipe out a good chunk of a continent.

But the smaller stuff, asteroids that could merely wipe out a major metropolitan area are almost impossible to spot. We could keep an eye on them, if we were willing to spend the money.
Maybe these two close calls were a wake-up call that we should do it.

I'm Charles Jaco and that's Jacology.

Filed in: Jacology

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