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March 3, 2009 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Asteroid in the Sydney Morning Herald. An asteroid as big as a ten-story building passed by Earth. What do you think should have been done about it? It came within 600000 km of our atmosphere.
posted by kldickson (81 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
What do you think should have been done about it?

It appears that an appropriate course of action was taken, no?
posted by mr_roboto at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just for some perspective, the moon is about 380000 km from our atmosphere.
posted by Jimbob at 4:38 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hopefully this will encourage Obama to reconsider killing off the Star Wars program.
A network of space-based lasers would certainly take care of the asteroid problem.
posted by Flashman at 4:38 PM on March 3, 2009


Probably they should have put together some kind of crazy mission, and then found some unlikely roughnecks to put on board their hastily-constructed prototype spaceship.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:39 PM on March 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


And here's the JPL Small Body Database Browser page for 2009 DD45...
posted by mr_roboto at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2009


Clearly, we should have at least introduced ourselves, if not sent it some home-made fruitcake and a card.
posted by Rinku at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2009



Just for some perspective, the moon is about 380000 km from our atmosphere.


Yeah, but the kldickson's post has a typo; the asteroid approached at only 60,000 km, not 600,000 km as written here.

And that's why we use scientific notation.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:42 PM on March 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


What do you think should have been done about it?

One would think that tracking it ahead of time might have been nice.
posted by dersins at 4:42 PM on March 3, 2009


Clearly, we should have at least introduced ourselves

Are you kidding? It was a drifter, just passing through. Don't make eye contact, don't be helpful, or it will stick around and lower property values.
posted by lekvar at 4:43 PM on March 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


And that's why we use scientific notation.

Or at least thousands separators.
posted by GuyZero at 4:43 PM on March 3, 2009


Since you ask, I think we should have hoisted a 60,000-km-high baseball bat and played rounders with the Martians. Or caught it in a twenty-storey-wide net and sold it on eBay. Or vaporised it with our fully-operational Death Star.
posted by rory at 4:49 PM on March 3, 2009


60,000 km? that's like going up to wisconsin.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 4:50 PM on March 3, 2009


What do you think should could have been done about it?

Fixed that for you.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:52 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


dersins, we can't detect rocks this small unless they are quite close. We really only have an approximate idea of just how much crap this size is floating around out there. This one was less remarkable for its close encounter than it was for the fact that we saw it coming at all.
posted by localroger at 4:54 PM on March 3, 2009


drill there, drill now?
i am reading the Manifold series right now and it popped into my head.
posted by Glibpaxman at 4:54 PM on March 3, 2009


It was a drifter, just passing through.

Wonder if it left anything scribbled on the fencepost in chalk?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:54 PM on March 3, 2009


It was noticed in advance, thought not that far in advance. And from the article:
By the way, this isn't the closest "near-miss" asteroidal fragment on record. According to the MPC, tiny 2004 FU162 skirted just 4,000 miles from us on March 31, 2004.
The key excitement was that you could actually see this from Australia, Japan, and maybe Hawaii with an 8-inch backyard telescope.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:56 PM on March 3, 2009


dersins, we can't detect rocks this small unless they are quite close.

Then allow me to rephrase:

One would think that tracking developing the technology required to track it ahead of time might have been nice.
posted by dersins at 4:56 PM on March 3, 2009


60,000 km? that's like going up to wisconsin.

Probably Minnesota. This is more like Wisconsin.
posted by netbros at 4:56 PM on March 3, 2009


And it will end, not in fire or in ice, but in "Hey what the hell is th-"
posted by The Whelk at 4:57 PM on March 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


Maybe you'd better hope we do get hit by a 30m asteroid. Might make people get ready for a bigger one.
posted by edd at 4:59 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The correct answer, as usual, is "get totally high."
posted by The Straightener at 5:04 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


doing nothing was the right thing. whether it's 600,000km, 60,000km or a quarter of an inch, it's a fucking miss. move along, nothing to see here.
posted by kitchenrat at 5:07 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have it on good authority that one object measuring over 100,000 km in diameter came within 595000000 km of earth last year. It was mostly featureless in telescopes but it did have a red spot.
posted by crapmatic at 5:12 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Within 24 hours astronomers had calculated it would narrowly miss the planet."

I don't want to rag on the good work of NASA, but shouldn't they be able to make this sort of determination much faster than that?
posted by kisch mokusch at 5:31 PM on March 3, 2009


What do you think should have been done about it?

I plan to write NASA a sternly-worded email.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:34 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I mean, that's some unprofessionally shameful shit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:35 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


We obviously need to invest in 2-dimensional wireframe triangular space ships that are a bitch to pilot.
posted by qvantamon at 5:37 PM on March 3, 2009 [20 favorites]


This event highlights the need for an observatory on the moon, so we can see a binocular view of our surroundings, so things coming right at us can be seen earlier.
posted by hortense at 5:42 PM on March 3, 2009


Give everyone a towel. Then ask everyone on one side of Earth to jump at the same time.
posted by AppleSeed at 5:49 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hopefully this will encourage Obama to reconsider killing off the Star Wars program.
A network of space-based lasers would certainly take care of the asteroid problem.


I don't know. Maybe it would let us draw a smiley face on one so we could give it a kind of dark humor.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:55 PM on March 3, 2009


I don't want to rag on the good work of NASA, but shouldn't they be able to make this sort of determination much faster than that?

The problem is, calculating the trajectory of an object like this requires observations at multiple points in time. It takes a while to make these observations, particularly when the object is not visible in the sky. You might have to wait until the next night to take another measurement to improve the trajectory model.
posted by Jimbob at 5:57 PM on March 3, 2009


>"Within 24 hours astronomers had calculated it would narrowly miss the planet."

I don't want to rag on the good work of NASA, but shouldn't they be able to make this sort of determination much faster than that?


When you find it, all you know is where it is now. You need to watch it a while to figure out where it's headed. I think only two nights' observation is really turning that around about as fast as possible.
posted by adamt at 6:03 PM on March 3, 2009


WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF AN ALIEN ATTACK:

ONE. Drop beneath the seat of your plane and avoid eye contact.
TWO. If no eyes, avoid ALL contact!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:10 PM on March 3, 2009


What do you think should have been done about it?

It is a huge social faux-pas to turn up uninvited, thus it has clearly ruined the social season for itself. The ensuing dearth of invitations to the Hamptons should be punishment enough.
posted by ob at 6:12 PM on March 3, 2009


This event highlights the need for an observatory on the moon, so we can see a binocular view of our surroundings, so things coming right at us can be seen earlier.

You know, that's actually in interesting thought. I s'pose there'd have to be two, on opposite sides, since one would be 14 days on, 14 days off what with the sun and all. Still. I can see this as a plausible excuse to do some really cool and super-expensive astronomy.

Hasn't the Hubble scope been well worth it, even if for nothing else than the cool desktop pictures?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:16 PM on March 3, 2009


I'm not worried I'm sure god has everything under control.
posted by nola at 6:17 PM on March 3, 2009


Nuke it from orbit. Just to be sure. (Duh.)
posted by mek at 6:18 PM on March 3, 2009


We came from... distant space
what some might call somewhat of another dimension
and we are about to return

from whence we came.

This is your last chance to escape planet Earth
before it is

recycled.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:21 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got my ass kicked in Wisconsin, once.
posted by steef at 6:23 PM on March 3, 2009


What do you think should have been done about it?

Judging from the animation linked at bottom of the FPP linked article, 2009 DD45 came straight at the Earth then abrubtly backed away along an identical heading, so we may want to keep a closer eye on our global emissions.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:26 PM on March 3, 2009


I would have flagged it and moved on.
posted by sciurus at 6:28 PM on March 3, 2009


Where the fuck is Bruce Willis when you need him?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:28 PM on March 3, 2009


Could we not have strapped rockets to it, slingshot'd it around the sun, gone back in time, and killed the dinosaurs with it?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:31 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


edd: Apparently the Tunguska event meteoroid was about that size. Maybe we'll learn next time.

How much would it cost to build a few observatories to watch for this kind of thing?
posted by sien at 6:39 PM on March 3, 2009


Who's to say we didn't?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:40 PM on March 3, 2009


Attention asteriods: We're having a bad year and in no mood for this shit. Knock it off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


poke it with a stick?
posted by wayofthedodo at 6:55 PM on March 3, 2009


Observatories can only cover a relatively tiny part of the sky at the detail needed to spot these objects, and there's a whole lotta sky.

I couldn't find an actual figure, but I've heard it said that we're only watching about 3% of the sky at any one time.
posted by lucidium at 7:03 PM on March 3, 2009


release the tiger?
posted by stargell at 7:06 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dunno about you guys, but I'm doing this.
posted by casarkos at 7:06 PM on March 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I did my part by being completely oblivious.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:07 PM on March 3, 2009


There's a somewhat speculative simulation available of what a LOL asteroid event would look like.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:24 PM on March 3, 2009


Let's try that again. There's a somewhat speculative simulation available of what a LOL asteroid event would look like.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


What do you think should have been done about it?

We should have sued it.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 PM on March 3, 2009


That is half as scary as Apophis.

I love you Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 8:24 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


What do you think should have been done about it?

Send a Russian satellite to collide with it?
posted by QuestionableSwami at 8:32 PM on March 3, 2009


binocular view: I meant an observatory on the moon in tandem with observatory here on Earth,then we could detect movement of these objects against the background stars.
Sometimes catastrophic sized objects are detected as they are leaving the planet.
The moon is our natural space station. I love the Moon
posted by hortense at 8:40 PM on March 3, 2009


Putting a telescope on the moon is exactly like putting a telescope in space, except it costs more and has a big piece of rock obscuring half the sky.
posted by teraflop at 8:51 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you find it, all you know is where it is now. You need to watch it a while to figure out where it's headed. I think only two nights' observation is really turning that around about as fast as possible.

Yeah, Jimbob said something similar. I just thought that, if it was close, it would have a discernible trajectory within a single night's viewing (or even a few hours viewing). Clearly that's not the case.

And George_Spiggott, I'm not sure I can forgive you for that link.
posted by kisch mokusch at 9:04 PM on March 3, 2009


The point, Kitchenrat is that it was a miss this time. 60,000 clicks is actually a very close miss for something like that. Can you imagine what would have happened if something like that hit a populated area? As sien mentioned it was (probably) the size of the Tunguska meteoroid. That would have been a kinetic strike releasing a couple of megatons worth of energy, and if someone didn't have their thinking caps on straight, it's possible it could be mistaken for a nuke in the moment. And that would really suck over and above the obvious suck for the people it landed on if someone decided to act on that.
posted by barc0001 at 9:22 PM on March 3, 2009


Well, we could've at least invited it in for some coffee.

Wouldn't kill us to be sociable.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:37 PM on March 3, 2009


I was wondering what it was doing in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Have giant asteroid-munching aliens taken to wrapping up their snacks in newspaper, fish-n-chip style?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:24 PM on March 3, 2009


!YaY! really shitty, deceptive, sensationalistic science reporting! best of the web!

Q) an asteroid the size of a house or something is going to pass approx. 60,000 Km from the earth. the earth is about 12,000 Km across. the picture of the earth that you've been given to make your news graphic is about 1/2 of a page wide. in this news graphic, your image of the asteroid should be:

a) a tiny dot 3 pages over.
or
b) a millimeter from australia and sporting a tail as big as the moon is wide, even though it's not a comet. 'cause, y'know, like, whatever.

i see you and raise you one earthgrazing meteor skimming the atmosphere like a stone on a lake.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:43 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Where the fuck is Bruce Willis when you need him?

I was going to suggest just launching him in the asteroid's general direction.
posted by mazola at 12:04 AM on March 4, 2009


Good thing that nobody notified us. I spend the entire day with cleaning the house yesterday - not a cool last day on earth.
posted by Smaaz at 12:40 AM on March 4, 2009


An asteroid as big as a ten-story building passed by Earth

Given its size and environmental footprint, I think the council planning people would sort out that asteroid very quickly if it didn't have the appropriate permission to burst through the atmosphere, impact on the ground with colossal force and initiate mass outflow of magma from the earth's core. Recently they've tended to get a lot more draconian about things that make the neighbours complain.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:34 AM on March 4, 2009


Oh my god, Rush Limbaugh is hurling giant rocks at us from outer space!
posted by zaelic at 1:42 AM on March 4, 2009


"I don't know. Maybe it would let us draw a smiley face on one so we could give it a kind of dark humor."

Why so Sirius?
posted by Eideteker at 4:34 AM on March 4, 2009


Oh my god, Rush Limbaugh is hurling giant rocks at us from outer space!

I thought that was Rush Limbaugh?!?!? Looked large enough!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:07 AM on March 4, 2009


That misleading illo under the headline was enough to keep me from reading the article.
posted by JBennett at 7:21 AM on March 4, 2009


It was made of marshmallow, so really we missed out on a sweet treat.
posted by storybored at 8:21 AM on March 4, 2009


WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF AN ALIEN ATTACK:

ONE. Drop beneath the seat of your plane and avoid eye contact.
TWO. If no eyes, avoid ALL contact!


They're in everybody's eggs...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:26 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Flashman : Hopefully this will encourage Obama to reconsider killing off the Star Wars program.A network of space-based lasers would certainly take care of the asteroid problem.

I'm not sure if this was meant as a joke or not, but I'm pretty sure that we don't currently have anything in the sky (or on the table) that could reach out that far, or even begin to seriously harm an object big enough to cause planetary damage. Most of the current anti-impact efforts are tending towards early detection and deflection technology rather than trying to destroy the object outright, since instead of one big fast moving object, we might end up with hundreds of small ones.

steef : I got my ass kicked in Wisconsin, once.

I told you to leave that donkey at home when you came to visit. Like cow-tipping, ass-kicking is just a state pass-time here.

posted by quin at 9:46 AM on March 4, 2009


At least we caught it ahead of time. Last time we had a near miss like that we didn't even see it until it had passed us by. Can't recall exact details; sometime in the past 4 years an asteroid passed about half the distance to the moon and wasn't discovered until several hours after the fact.

Might have been one of these.
posted by daHIFI at 9:49 AM on March 4, 2009


What do you think should have been done about it?

Nothing probably, nothing to do. This asteroid's encounter was known well in advance and this article just reeks of poor reporting. All you have to do is read that NASA pages to know the Sydney Morning Herald is full of crap.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:54 AM on March 4, 2009


Well, maybe not crap, but I doubt the veracity of their claims of destruction and tsunamis. This is the same kind of hand-waving the media always does about astronomical apocalypse scenarios. Sorry for the double.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:55 AM on March 4, 2009


I don't care that it's coming if it's going to miss us. Nothing to do, really, but it'd be cool to watch it hit something besides us.

Now, if we knew it was going to hit then I'd look for Connie Waters, from 5th grade.

BTW: Anybody know where Connie Waters is (or who she is, now), let me know. And if she wasn't in 5th grade in Covina, California, about 40 years ago, she's not the one.)
posted by Man with Lantern at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2009


If we knew it was going to hit, I'd stay away from Waters of any kind.
posted by storybored at 2:21 PM on March 4, 2009


They're in everybody's eggs...

I'm afraid the general's gotten his scrambled.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:49 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


This asteroid's encounter was known well in advance...

Where are you getting that from? Your link doesn't indicated when this asteroid was first detected, and other sources indicated that it was detected only about a day before the close approach.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:07 PM on March 4, 2009


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