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Sky Doom - the Return?
August 6, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Remember the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this year, injuring hundreds and giving us dozens of spectacular dashcam videos? It may have friends.
posted by Artw (52 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like that io9 used "gang" in the subheading because now we can think of them less as friends and more as fellow asteroidy v zakone.
posted by griphus at 2:31 PM on August 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Clearly we need to pour money into the space program.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:33 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Clearly we need to pour our money into worldwide adoption of dashcams in case the next one comes down somewhere else.
posted by GuyZero at 2:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


Bruce Willis is going to be 70 in 2025, maybe we should put him in suspended animation until we need him.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Not with a whimper, but a gang.
posted by argonauta at 2:37 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Clearly we need to pour our money into worldwide adoption of dashcams in case the next one comes down somewhere else.

Russia attracts these things.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is written like every single article about every single near earth asteroid ever found that had a chance of hitting Earth that was greater than zero. Nothing in there really gives me pause, or will make me think about Earth being hit by an asteroid during my everyday existence. Breathless science reporting, as usual, followed by this nugget:

Indeed, lest we get too alarmed by this news, it’s important to note that the evidence presented by the astronomers is speculative and circumstantial.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:38 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


One thing I hadn't heard about the Chelyabinsk meteor is that we did not see it coming because it came at us from out of the sun. Clearly they are adopting WWII era dogfighting techniques.
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on August 6, 2013 [23 favorites]


We thought the first one was just a fluke. Just chance. One in a million.

* image of lone meteor streaking to Earth *

We were right.

* image zooms out, ONE MILLION METEORS *

[[ METEOPLAGUE ]]

[[ Coming soon to SyFy ]]
posted by curious nu at 2:46 PM on August 6, 2013 [35 favorites]


[[ Coming soon to SyFy ]]

What if the meteor had space sharks on it?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:50 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]



What if meteor had space sharks on it?!


You need to learn to edit! We have to save something for the sequel next in the trilogy!
posted by curious nu at 2:55 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somebody fire!
posted by sonascope at 2:56 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


We know that it was about 56-feet across (17 meters), it weighed about 10,000 tons, and was moving at 11 miles per second (40,000 mph, 64,000 km/hr) when it reached Earth.

Gah!
posted by eugenen at 2:59 PM on August 6, 2013


... and coming soon, Extreme Amish Asteroid Hunters.
posted by Behemoth at 2:59 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Nothing in there really gives me pause, or will make me think about Earth being hit by an asteroid during my everyday existence.

Odds of dying in a terrorist attack: 1 in 20 million

Odds of dying from an asteroid impact: 1 in 20,000
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:05 PM on August 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


T.S. Elliot may have been wrong.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


You need to learn to edit! We have to save something for the sequel next in the trilogy!

What if sharknados are the only thing that can save humanity from this gang of meteors?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Like the saying goes, we all die alone.
Except with death stars and russian meteor swarms.
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:21 PM on August 6, 2013


Marcos recently conducted an exhaustive computer simulation of billions of possible orbits to find the most likely one. The team then averaged the 10 best orbits and matched those against real asteroids in NASA’s catalogue.

Wait, so they didn't find any new asteroids? If we know about these already, why are they surprising us?
posted by Canageek at 3:31 PM on August 6, 2013


why are they surprising us?

They're smart, they keep the lights off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:33 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


entropicamericana: "Bruce Willis is going to be 70 in 2025, maybe we should put him in suspended animation until we need him."

Based on the last Die Hard, that might be a good idea generally.
posted by brundlefly at 3:36 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is written like every single article about every single near earth asteroid ever found that had a chance of hitting Earth that was greater than zero. Nothing in there really gives me pause, or will make me think about Earth being hit by an asteroid during my everyday existence.

IvoShandor, I'm with you on "breathless reporting", but this is a real risk and the Chelyabinsk airburst is really about as bad as I want to see on my watch. Of course, few had really imagined that we would see a quarter million deaths from a tsunami in our lifetimes, either.

And of course, 2/3 of the earth is water. It wouldn't take a very large asteroid hitting the ocean to equal or exceed that level of destruction.

Most of the risks we think about are personal. We tend to discount the ongoing background noise of natural disasters -- just look at the population of the Bay Area.

What's annoying is when the media report on a new Earth-grazer as being cause for holding our breath as it whizzes by. For the most part, we'll know weeks or months in advance whether it's even coming within hundreds of thousands of miles (roughly, lunar orbit), because physics is pretty good on this stuff, limited only by our observation technology. The real risk is the many, many much smaller rocks that we can't even see, but which are still large enough to cause widespread destruction if they were to hit a populated area or, as noted, the ocean. We're not even talking something big enough to make the Barringer Crater, just something that could blow up in midair over, say, Belgium.

It's not so much that we need you, personally, to quake in your boots. We just need concern to be where it should be -- in funding the technology projects that will both improve our catalog of existing threat objects, and create an ability to perhaps do something about it should we have one that Kepler's equations tell us has Earth in its sights. Thus far, money has been trickling there, but more at a level which gives us studies like this one, simulations. That's a real problem, or should be, for a civilization at our level.
posted by dhartung at 3:36 PM on August 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


The Onion Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan
posted by homunculus at 3:45 PM on August 6, 2013


* image zooms out, ONE MILLION METEORS *

You know those dreams you sometimes have that stick with you forever? One of mine was about this, only the meteors were this sickly purple colored nerf-sponge material and roughly beach ball sized. We were all running and ducking for cover, but getting hit was like getting beaned in dodgeball and my whole back yard was pretty much like the ball room at Ikea. Except we were scared instead of having fun.
posted by Hoopo at 3:55 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clearly we need to pour money into the space program.
posted by Brandon Blatcher


♫ You have a friend in Bezos ♬, I have a feeling.

Looking again at the pictures of the vapor trail of the Chelyabinsk meteor, I now think it displays a clear instance of crow instability, whatever that may mean about the meteor itself, if anything.
posted by jamjam at 4:07 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Odds of dying from an asteroid impact: 1 in 20,000

You forgot a zero, the article claims it's 1 in 200,000. It doesn't say if that's the odds of being hit by a small one or an extinction level event, though.

There should be a different kind of odds to measure earth-ending scenarios. Sure, it might be a one in a million chance that you get eaten by a black hole created by mad scientists, but that doesn't mean seven thousand people are annually eaten by black holes.
posted by ymgve at 4:21 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like that io9 used "gang" in the subheading because now we can think of them less as friends and more as fellow asteroidy v zakone.


"Who is your mother and your father?"

"I have no mother and no father. I have no family. Only the Kuiper Belt."

*gets tattoo reading 'МИР' with picture of the actual Mir space station above it*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:30 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Way before SyFy, there was Without Warning, a pretty silly movie about physics-defying meteors that had the surprising appearance of Arthur Clarke as himself commenting on the news.
posted by Iosephus at 4:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ha, September 23, 2025 is exactly six days after I can retire with a full pension.

That would kinda suck.
posted by absentian at 4:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can someone point me at a resource which defines this unfamiliar phrase: "full pension"?
posted by maxwelton at 4:54 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


This one landed about 30 miles from my home after shaking my house with its sonic boom.

We gotta do something about this, guys.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:04 PM on August 6, 2013


"It's the size of Texas, Mr. President."
posted by zardoz at 5:39 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can someone point me at a resource which defines this unfamiliar phrase: "full pension"?

It's basically just a reverse mortgage on one's soul that looks more and more like a ponzi scheme with each trip around the sun. If it makes you feel any better, I ain't sticking around for the whole enchilada.
posted by absentian at 5:50 PM on August 6, 2013


This little chunk was tailgating a big chunk that passed earlier in the 24 hour period. Scientists denied there could be a connection between the two because of trajectory. I maintain all eyes were on the big chunk flying between the outer and inner satellites, and they missed the Chelyabinsk piece and it was pulled in by gravity to an entirely but not entirely different trajectory. People saw this meteorite over the bay area just before the flame out over Russia. This meteorite does have a big brother, it just couldn't keep up.
posted by Oyéah at 6:07 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This isn't a theoretical risk, or one that is only significant at astronomical time scales. Just in the past 20 years we've seen Jupiter get hit at least twice by objects that would have caused a very bad day on Earth: Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, with "fragments ranging up to 2 km (1.2 mi) in diameter" and the 2009 event, with an object "estimated to have been about 200 to 500 meters in diameter."--Chelyabinsk is estimated to have been 17-20 meters in diameter.

A 2 km object hitting the earth would be like thousands of the most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated going off. And we saw it happen in our solar system, pretty recently!

Carl Sagan:
Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring--not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive... If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds.
One of my favorite asteroid impact microstories: "to the brave pilots of the new World Space Defense!"
posted by jjwiseman at 6:38 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to keep your perspective on things every day, put lowflyingrocks in your twitter feed.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:03 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a very serious problem, and we have literally no idea how many massive objects are on long period, highly eccentric orbits that will just happen to pass within Earth's gravity well. We should have a better monitoring program, and maybe we should think about defensive capabilities that don't involve bringing Mr. Willis out of retirement.

That said, this paper is ... not that great. They ran a bunch of dynamical simulations (hard) and to get their family they had to solve for multiple gravitational interactions with Venus and Earth (very hard). This stuff diverges very quickly. To be fair, they state in the paper (as quoted in TFA) "unfortunately, the current orbits of all the candidates are not reliable enough to claim a conclusive connection".

(Not my area of expertise, but we argued abut this paper over coffee.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:19 PM on August 6, 2013


Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, with "fragments ranging up to 2 km (1.2 mi) in diameter"

aaaaaaaahhhhhh

"a July 2009 impact on Jupiter that caused a black spot in the planet's atmosphere. The spot was similar in area to the planet's Little Red Spot, approximately the size of the Pacific Ocean."

aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
posted by elizardbits at 9:31 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can we get a real statement from a astrophysicist in this thread please? What do you mean we can't find any of them? For weeks? I...oh. Oh sh
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:32 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why do horror movies even exist when Jupiter is real.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


For the most part, we'll know weeks or months in advance whether it's even coming within hundreds of thousands of miles (roughly, lunar orbit), because physics is pretty good on this stuff, limited only by our observation technology.

Dont worry everyone we'll have at least a week to learn what heroin tastes like before we go poof.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:36 PM on August 6, 2013


"It's the size of Texas, Mr. President."

You know, as one of the few people with a hard-science background who actually enjoys that movie as a delicious piece of cheese, that was a great movie line. But the thing is that size would reconfigure the Earth in ways only Velikovsky could imagine. You don't need a Texas-sized rock to create a Very Bad Day with worldwide implications (such as a nuclear winter). You don't even need a Houston-sized one. You could probably do it with one the size of the Astrodome. The dinosaur-killer was probably about 10km in diameter.
posted by dhartung at 10:42 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do horror movies even exist when Jupiter is real.

"Don't go down in the basement--I think there's a gas giant down there!"
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:23 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do horror movies even exist when Jupiter is real.

It mostly comes out at night... mostly.
posted by ambivalentic at 7:27 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dear Universe, Just make it quick. Love, Obi-Wan
posted by ob1quixote at 11:29 AM on August 7, 2013


The comet is coming from inside the solar system!
posted by dhartung at 5:05 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking of Jupiter: It's Time to Land On Europa
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A relevant podcast from former astronaut Ed Lu on the subject of killer asteroids and the organization he has founded to detect and deflect them — the B612 Foundation.

This is actually a fascinating topic. Too bad the comments here read like something from YouTube.
posted by quadog at 11:29 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


NASA maps Earth-killer asteroids in one image
posted by homunculus at 7:33 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


We. Are. All. Going. To. Die.
posted by ambivalentic at 2:58 PM on August 14, 2013


Russian Meteor Explosion's Dust Cloud Lingered In Atmosphere for Months
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tourists.
posted by dhartung at 4:15 AM on August 19, 2013


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