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Monolith delivery?
October 6, 2008 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Discovered just last night by the Catalina Sky Survey at Mount Lemmon Observatory, asteroid 2008 TC will enter the upper atmosphere (and should explode spectacularly) over Northern Sudan in around 30 minutes.
posted by JaredSeth (45 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I meant to include the link to the Near-Earth Object site which has a graphic of the trajectory, but that webserver is getting hammered right now.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:19 PM on October 6, 2008


Several feet in diameter... whew, close one.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:19 PM on October 6, 2008


Multiple national economic meltdowns, irreversible global warming, more international strife than the world has seen in sixty years, and now you tell me the sky is falling?
posted by ardgedee at 7:26 PM on October 6, 2008 [12 favorites]


Uhh, if they just found this thing now, does that mean another, larger object could go undetected? Am I going to wake up one morning and have 30 minutes to live, because some mile-long asteroid was playing peek-a-boo with astronomers?

Dude, now I won't be able to sleep.
posted by hellojed at 7:26 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


One last link and I'll stop: Sky and Telescope is reporting it's up to 10 meters long, and should be equivalent to a kiloton explosion. It may be visible as far away as Southern Europe, if any of the local mefites want to go outside and look for it.

And hellojed, that's the part of the story that caught my interest too.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:29 PM on October 6, 2008


Well, if it's bright enough, maybe we will get to see whether indeed "the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes."
posted by jamjam at 7:29 PM on October 6, 2008


No one captured an image of the JPL track?
posted by crapmatic at 7:30 PM on October 6, 2008


hellojed: I'm sure it's possible that a big stray asteroid or whatever could kill us at any minute. However, that's far from the most probable cause of sudden unexpected death.

Staying awake is a good plan though. Millions of people die in their sleep every year.
posted by aubilenon at 7:32 PM on October 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


I rode atop a train through northern Sudan once. There was nothing to the left but sand. And nothing to the right. I saw one very black man in a white robe and turban with a huge sword on his back. He stood next to the track and watched us go by.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:33 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Uhh, if they just found this thing now, does that mean another, larger object could go undetected?

Yes.

Am I going to wake up one morning and have 30 minutes to live, because some mile-long asteroid was playing peek-a-boo with astronomers?

Sweet dreams!
posted by Jairus at 7:34 PM on October 6, 2008


Who needs those ivory tower intellectual astronomers. Small town values will stop the near earth objects.
posted by Skorgu at 7:44 PM on October 6, 2008 [15 favorites]


While driving at 120 km/h down the highway, they did not see a mosquito in time to avoid it. Does this mean they will not be able to see an 18 wheeler coming their way?
posted by dirty lies at 7:46 PM on October 6, 2008


hellojed writes "Uhh, if they just found this thing now, does that mean another, larger object could go undetected? Am I going to wake up one morning and have 30 minutes to live, because some mile-long asteroid was playing peek-a-boo with astronomers?"

What with space being black and many asteroids having a very low albedo we often don't see them until they pass us if they come from the blind spot in the daytime sky near the sun. Sometimes a 100m asteroid passes within 120K kms (well within the Moon's orbit) and we don't notice until two days later.

However if 2002MN had hit the Earth it probably only would have flattened a couple thousand square kilometres so no worries.
posted by Mitheral at 7:52 PM on October 6, 2008


> Am I going to wake up one morning and have 30 minutes to live, because some mile-long asteroid was playing peek-a-boo with astronomers?

Maybe, but that would be one hell of a half-hour!
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:52 PM on October 6, 2008


Maybe, but that would be one hell of a half-hour!

Why do I think I would probably be on the can?

Mrs M: "Honey, can you come out, it's important!"

M: "I'm just trying to read in peace-and-fucking-quiet! I'll be out in a second."

[20 minutes later]

M: "What was it you wanted?"

Asteroid: Boom.
posted by maxwelton at 7:56 PM on October 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


As for me, I'll be under the bed with a high-powered handgun and a bottle of gin.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:59 PM on October 6, 2008


Am I going to wake up one morning and have 30 minutes to live, because some mile-long asteroid was playing peek-a-boo with astronomers?

I can be quite misanthropic, and sometimes I feel like this would be the best way for humanity to go out; quickly, with a bang and in such a way that no-one caused it or suffers afterwards. Let the insects take a shot at running the world for a few hundred million years and see if they do a better job of it.

Then I shake my head and snap to, re-read one of my favourite books, eat a nice meal or see a young couple in love, and feel better about the human race. For a while, anyway.
posted by you just lost the game at 8:01 PM on October 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


Via Bad Astronomy, here's an animated GIF showing what 2008 TC3 saw as it approached the impact point.

With any luck, we should see some pretty neat footage showing up on Youtube over the next few hours.
posted by teraflop at 8:03 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, it's just a small asteroid. Maybe you should feel sorry for the little guy....(this one was greeted with a more gentle end....) (Has this been posted before?)
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:06 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


damn...


while some Sudan Kid is uploading an exploding asteroid to youtube, I am still trying to get my fuzzy, wuzzy kitty cat to do something funny.
posted by shockingbluamp at 8:09 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


M: "I'm just trying to read in peace-and-fucking-quiet! I'll be out in a second."

You mean your wife wouldn't make a second attempt to impress upon you the seriousness of the situation? My dad doesn't like to be interrupted when he's on the can, either, but you must really hate it.

/ kidding

Incidentally, this hypothetical scenario reminds me of the part in Battlefield Earth (the movie, don't know about the book and ain't about to find out) where the main villain (played by John Travolta) claims that when his race invaded Earth it took them "nine minutes" to conquer the entire planet. Imagine everyone who laid down for a nap/was doing some work in the basement/took a dump/etc. and came out nine minutes later to find the entire world in ruins and a Psychlo on every street corner!
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:13 PM on October 6, 2008


I'm just upset that there aren't pictures yet.
posted by The White Hat at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2008


Uhh, if they just found this thing now, does that mean another, larger object could go undetected?

Yes, it's true, Armageddon took some liberties with the science.
posted by smackfu at 8:31 PM on October 6, 2008


If it is moving fast enough it could do some real damage.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:33 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


MPML (a list for comet and asteroid researchers) is going nuts (relatively speaking).
posted by spock at 8:40 PM on October 6, 2008


aubilenon: Staying awake is a good plan though. Millions of people die in their sleep every year.

dirty lies: While driving at 120 km/h down the highway, they did not see a mosquito in time to avoid it. Does this mean they will not be able to see an 18 wheeler coming their way?

Mitheral: However if 2002MN had hit the Earth it probably only would have flattened a couple thousand square kilometres so no worries.

you just lost the game: I can be quite misanthropic, and sometimes I feel like this would be the best way for humanity to go out; quickly, with a bang and in such a way that no-one caused it or suffers afterwards. Let the insects take a shot at running the world for a few hundred million years and see if they do a better job of it.

Man, you guys are cold as ice. :)
posted by hellojed at 8:46 PM on October 6, 2008


Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom?
posted by markr at 9:16 PM on October 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Here it is.... (Again, again I think....)
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:41 PM on October 6, 2008


YouTube explanation from JPL.
posted by spock at 10:27 PM on October 6, 2008


Yes, we are all going to die. It's probably going to be painful, and render meaningless all the efforts we've made to create something, anything, worthwhile. And we should just be grateful we had that chance at trying to make something -- the vast majority of sentient life doesn't have that privilege.

So live your life and love your loves with as much earnestness as you possibly can. That's a lot better than nothing, and if the great asteroid or financial crisis takes it all away, at least you tried your best to make something out of nothing -- that, in itself, is definitely something.
posted by treepour at 10:58 PM on October 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


We need more warning for these kinds of events. Seriously, these are missed opportunities.

Do you have any idea how awesome and epic it would be to throw a rave (or shoot a scene for an SF film) in the middle of the Sudan with a real meteor streaking overhead?
posted by loquacious at 12:31 AM on October 7, 2008


Uhh, if they just found this thing now, does that mean another, larger object could go undetected?

Yup. The probability is low, though.

But the probability is high enough that it makes survey telescope projects like Pan-STARRS and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope interesting.
posted by maschnitz at 12:33 AM on October 7, 2008


Well, according to the Yahoo asteroid researcher message board, the latest news is "Initial analysis of the spectra via comparison with the solar analogue 16CygB reveals a featureless reflectance spectrum with no indication of the silicate absorption feature longward of 800nm."

Can someone please translate?
posted by Titania at 2:43 AM on October 7, 2008


I used to think the probability of a major asteroid hit on the planet was really low. But then I thought there was zero chance anyone would publicly admit they watched Battlefield Earth.
posted by troybob at 4:16 AM on October 7, 2008


Any pictures?
posted by Pastabagel at 5:34 AM on October 7, 2008


My understanding of the odds involved here is that smaller "burn up" objects like this hit a lot more often than most people realize. It's only been recently that we've been likely to see them or predict them.

Seeing them: people don't live on that much of the earth's surface, once you subtract out oceans, deserts, etc. Satellite monitoring has only been going on a few decades, and when it started, it was oriented towards missile launches and data tended to be classified.

Predicting them: the idea that there could be numerous small objects around capable of hitting the earth is also pretty recent, and serious cataloguing has only been happening for a couple of decades.

A public prediction like this actually sounds like really good news to me.
posted by gimonca at 5:40 AM on October 7, 2008


I love it when trained scientists use words like "bazillion". (from spock's jpl yt link)
posted by medium format at 5:49 AM on October 7, 2008


There's a report that a KLM pilot saw it. No pictures yet that I can find.
posted by lukemeister at 6:25 AM on October 7, 2008


Titania: 16CygB is an planet orbiting the star HD 186427. It sounds like this fellow is talking about the reflection absorption spectrum of an object; that is, they look at light bouncing off the object, and see where in the spectrum light has been absorbed. He/she seems to say that whatever object he/she is talking about is lacking a particular absorption line in the spectrum of reflected light that is characteristic of silicates, which would indicate there is little silica in the object. I don't know without context what the object is or why they're comparing it to an extrasolar planet though.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:27 AM on October 7, 2008


Titania (good astronomical name!), Salvor Hardin,

16 Cygni is a triple-star system. The 3 stars are named 16 Cygni A, B, and C. 16 Cygni B is a Sun-like star, so by comparing its spectrum with the spectrum of the asteroid, observers can study the composition of the asteroid.

16 Cygni B does have a planet, 16 Cygni Bb. Two B or not two B, that is the question.
posted by lukemeister at 8:59 AM on October 7, 2008


A rave would be awesome, Loquacious! Except for the fact that it would be in Darfur. Which also, maybe, might explain why we aren't seeing too many videos of the thing.

As for the video from Kronos - awesome and scary and cool, but how the hell did any creature survive that? It makes me question how accurate it was. I mean, 4000 degrees is pretty hot, and I don't know any critters that would last a second, much less a year.
posted by kanewai at 10:24 AM on October 7, 2008


i'm going to pretend it's the 90's...

BAM!
posted by sexyrobot at 10:52 AM on October 7, 2008


Rocks fall; everybody dies.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:52 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, it looks like the meteor entered only about 200-300 miles due west of Mecca, Saudi Arabia -- which is home to the Kaaba, which contains al-Hajar-ul-Aswad (the Black Stone), thought to be a meteorite that hit that area a long time ago: "According to Islamic tradition, the Stone fell from Heaven during the time of Adam and Eve, when it was a pure and dazzling white, but has since turned black because of the sins it has absorbed over the years.[6] It is said that it was Abraham who found the black rock and when he rebuilt the Kaaba, the Archangel Gabriel brought the Stone out of hiding and gave it to him."
posted by Asparagirl at 12:43 PM on October 7, 2008 [4 favorites]




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