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January 28, 2008 2:27 AM   Subscribe

Will asteroid 2007 TU24 devastate our planet due to "magnetic reconnection"? Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait doesn't think so.
posted by starkeffect (43 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
People will believe anything about something they don't understand. It may be sadder: they may not be able to understand. "Magnetic reconnection." Jesus Asteroid Throwing Christ.
posted by maxwelton at 2:56 AM on January 28, 2008


Crap. So I have to go to work again?
posted by pompomtom at 3:09 AM on January 28, 2008


Even if you grant the magnetic charge thing, which is pretty stupid on its face.... even if you grant that there's an energy transfer from the asteroid to the Earth... it doesn't matter. On the scales we're dealing with, that much energy is absolutely insignificant in any kind of real sense. This thing is only 400 yards across. Even if it was positively crackling with electrons from some mysterious source... it's still only 400 yards across, and it's going to miss us by three hundred thousand miles.

No magic Destructo Fairy is going to wave her magic wand and wreak havoc. Sheesh.
posted by Malor at 3:24 AM on January 28, 2008


TU24? More like CUL8R amirite?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:41 AM on January 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Not the end of the world, obviously, but does anyone know what the music is in the TU24.org video? Seems to be a cover of a Sting tune but I can't find it, and the TU24.org guys seem more concerned with other matters for some reason.
posted by motty at 3:41 AM on January 28, 2008


We'll have to wait for asteroid FU666.
posted by Termite at 4:27 AM on January 28, 2008


Even if it was positively crackling with electrons from some mysterious source... it's still only 400 yards across, and it's going to miss us by three hundred thousand miles.

The EM force is a lot (a LOT a lot) stronger than the gravitational one. I was going to calculate just how strong a force there would be from an object this side that had one extra electron for every atom, but seriously.
posted by DU at 4:46 AM on January 28, 2008


"The EM force is a lot (a LOT a lot) stronger than the gravitational one."

Not over distance it's not.
posted by Eideteker at 5:19 AM on January 28, 2008


2007 TU 24 at NASA JPL.

Nearest approach about 1 1/2 the distance to the moon, a distance that gives you a threat rating of "who cares". Stuff whizzes by at that distance on a moderately regular basis. It's probably kind of neat if you have the capability to find it and snap a photo, though. And as something that size that can come that close to Earth, it's worth getting more observations so it can be tracked in the future.
posted by gimonca at 5:23 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not over distance it's not.

Uh....yes it is. They both vary with 1/r2, so the ratio remains the same at all distances.

The reason gravity dominates over long distances has nothing to do with force strength and everything to do with the fact that EM comes in both negative and positive parts. But in the case I quoted, the asteroid would be "crackling with electrons", i.e. highly non-neutral.
posted by DU at 5:27 AM on January 28, 2008


This all pretty funny because this morning as I passed by my wife on my way from the bedroom to the kitchen she stumbled, turned to me and said, "My, you're crackling with electrons this morning, aren't you?" And I thought it was love.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:38 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whoa, good to know. I was getting ready to tell my boss off, drop peyote and LSD and then go raving mad in the streets.

I guess I can skip the part with my boss now, huh?
posted by chillmost at 5:41 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


No Impact?? that sux
posted by zouhair at 5:46 AM on January 28, 2008


Of course, the suggestion was that it was positively crackling with electrons. That would make them positrons, i.e. anti-matter. So when it does impact, we are toast.
posted by DU at 5:54 AM on January 28, 2008


Needs the "batshitinsane" tag.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:00 AM on January 28, 2008


Of course, the suggestion was that it was positively crackling with electrons. That would make them positrons, i.e. anti-matter.

Jesus, I hope that's not what she meant.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:05 AM on January 28, 2008


From what I know of such things, the earth is doomed if even one of those electrons hits it!!!
posted by Mister_A at 6:45 AM on January 28, 2008


The earth is doomed if even one of those electrons misses us by a wide margin, or if it wanders aimlessly a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, or if it never existed anywhere/always existed everywhere.

We're here for a good time,
not a long time,
so have a good time,
the sun can't shine every day.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:04 AM on January 28, 2008


I'm not worried. Bruce Willis will stop it.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:18 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The obvious solution is mass suicide. Kill yourself now, before the hideous space electrons get you! Do you want to suffer horribly in your last moments, beset on all sides by Terrors from Deepest Space?

Of course not. Suicide is the answer. It's always been the answer.
posted by aramaic at 7:46 AM on January 28, 2008


I can't wait for the DVD.
posted by hojoki at 7:58 AM on January 28, 2008


Hey kids, how about a few jokes to lighten your last few hours here on earth, before the Electron From the Ether smashes us into our component quarks. Ya? OK.

So what does a debunker of whacked-out "Science!" mass destruction scenarios do at a Chinese buffet?







Phil Plait.

Hahaha! Get it? OK one more.



How many debunkers of pseudo-scientific end-of-the-world-porn theories does it take to screw in a lightbulb?







Phil Plait.

HAHAHAHA! I even crack myself up.
posted by Mister_A at 8:04 AM on January 28, 2008


I'm sure this is being spread through the news to hide the real threat. Watch out for the falling bus!
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2008


Huh, I was going to document my criticism of the fear of a 400m object, thinking that most of the big ELE (Extinction Level Event) impacts have been with bodies that are at least a couple of kilometers.

But a little further digging indicates that Tunguska hit was likely an object between 90 and 1200m, and knowing how much damage that did, I suddenly find myself less interested in knowing what a 400m object airburst would look like. It might not wipe out all higher life on earth, but any city underneath it would fare pretty poorly.

As to the "magnetic reconnection" stuff, it won't influence the chances of it hitting Earth, but I do wonder what effect it could have on the electronics of our satellites.
posted by quin at 9:58 AM on January 28, 2008


If this happens, I want my money back on a whole bunch of stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2008


You are frequently hit by subatomic particles from space ("cosmic rays"). How frequently? About a thousand times a second.
posted by neuron at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2008


neuron, that explains the itching and maybe even the rash.
posted by maxwelton at 10:52 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe this'll trigger The White Event and in a few days we'll all wake up with super powers and get our own comic books!

...what?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:07 AM on January 28, 2008


What does this all mean for the millions of fridge magnets? What if the asteroid renders them total un-magnetised and then people throw them into landfills, where they just sit there, polluting and thus helping global warming and therefore helps us all die sooner?

Or, what if the asteroid passes us by and knocks out the satellites that help us use the internet, thus causing millions of people to have important calls and chats suddenly drop? These people, despondently thinking that they are suddenly the only person left alive, kill themselves rather than go on in a world all alone!?

Also, what if the asteroid bumps a BIGGER asteroid, and THAT asteroid, not the original asteroid, hits us and kills everyone, kind of like interplanetary snooker?

Did any of you ever think about that? Huh? That's right Bad Astronomy dudes, I'm looking at you.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:09 AM on January 28, 2008


kind of like interplanetary snooker?

*takes away Salmonberry's copy of Red Dwarf*

Science fiction.

(Besides, everyone knows that Lister plays better after a couple of lagers. But let's just hope he doesn't go for a trick shot, because getting hit with a planet kind of sucks.)
posted by quin at 12:35 PM on January 28, 2008


I talked to a strange man - with a professorial air despite his eccentric dress - about all this. Some sort of consultant to the United Nations I think, or an astrophysicist or some such.

(He certainly knew a lot, he obviously had a PhD in something, he was quite insistent upon that point, but I was unclear on what exactly is was he did or his position.)

He said this asteroid was in fact incredibly dangerous and it not being an asteroid but the initial thrust of some sort of cybernetic invasion force. I didn’t catch all of it, but he was very reassuring, albeit a bit didactic, said something about ‘reversing the polarity’ which I completely failed to understand at which he smiled at me condescendingly, but warmly.

I think he was a cop or urban trekker because he ducked into one of those old police call boxes. Maybe he was a collector, because when I came back a little later with my dog it was gone.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


... not being an asteroid but the initial thrust of some sort of cybernetic invasion force.

See, now this is why I don't like Mondas.
posted by Pinback at 2:16 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Related:
Texas man sees gift from heaven in Jesus meteorite (via)

Not sure why it's related, but I'm pretty sure it is.
posted by qvantamon at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2008


It might not wipe out all higher life on earth, but any city underneath it would fare pretty poorly.

The odds aren't high for hitting a city per se, although populated area is a little higher. When you consider that 2/3 of Earth's surface is ocean, however, the odds are pretty good for a tsunami that might make 2004's look like surf.

Along your same lines, though, I always thought it was hyperbole for Armageddon to peg its asteroid as "the size of Texas". Heck, one the size of "Houston" would have been terrifyingly final as it were (see Chicxulub). Even skyscraper-sized rocks are pretty damned scary, although their effects are likely to be primarily local.
posted by dhartung at 4:46 PM on January 28, 2008


quin: As to the "magnetic reconnection" stuff, it won't influence the chances of it hitting Earth, but I do wonder what effect it could have on the electronics of our satellites.

Um, it's a ROCK. It's a big rock, but still... we're not talking some sort of incredibly powerful cosmic magnet here. It would take something with a magnetic field on the level of a planet, which requires a geologically active core, to mess with the magnetic field of the Earth. In other words, unless Mercury comes cruising by, they should be fine.

The funny thing is, there's a legitimate threat to the electronics of these things and even to the lives of astronauts on interplanetary missions (not so much in Earth orbit, but it's not impossible either.) The Sun can severely affect the magnetic and electrical field of the Earth, and it has severely done so on multiple occasions. It even took down a major power grid once with a geomagnetic storm! A good flare or coronal mass ejection could take down a lot of expensive orbital hardware.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:31 PM on January 28, 2008


Well maybe this is gonna miss us, but there's a man-made satelite that's gonna fall into the atmosphere around late February or early March. So at least we have that. *disappointed look*
posted by ZachsMind at 6:49 AM on January 29, 2008


Texas man sees gift from heaven in Jesus meteorite

I got your gift from heaven right here buddy.
posted by chillmost at 3:12 PM on January 29, 2008


So uh, we're still here, though the forums over on tu24.org seem to be down right now. Front page news there is that weather is affecting some parts of the United States that are neither Texas nor Florida. Must be the asteroid as there's never normally weather at this time of year.

Seriously you guys, does no-one know what that song was? Kind of sounded to me like Astrud Gilberto covering a tune by Sting called 'Fragile'. It's not Sting. Googling about tells me that Mercedes Sosa and Rebekah Del Sio both covered Fragile, translated as 'Fragilidad', but listening to them it doesn't seem to be either of those. Anyone know who it was?

I'm guessing not :(
posted by motty at 2:37 AM on January 30, 2008


Wow, it brings the stupid in that just like most years, we get a cold snap that drops temperatures 40F in 24 hours.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:19 AM on January 30, 2008


"...to extreme cold in the Middle East and snow in Jerusalem." Um...

A simple google search ("Middle East" and "cold") brings up this BBC article from January 17th. This asteroid has pretty powerful magnet mojo if it started affecting the weather a week or two ago.
posted by Hugonaut at 9:01 AM on January 30, 2008


Everybody wants to be Omega Man
posted by maus at 3:01 PM on January 30, 2008


I don't wanna be Omega Man, but I think I'd learn to appreciate being Y - The Last Man. I'd like to think I'd be better at it than Yorick. Lesson one in an apocalyptic future where you're the only human male alive and your girlfriend is in Australia and you're in America surrounded by nothing but women: forget about the chick in Australia.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:25 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


apod: Asteroid 2007 TU24 passed by the Earth yesterday, posing no danger.
posted by Eideteker at 7:12 AM on January 31, 2008


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