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Asteroid Probe Set to "Collide" With Earth
June 12, 2009 2:08 PM   Subscribe

A 1,124-pound (510-kilogram) space probe will "collide" with our home planet in June 2010 to simulate an approaching asteroid, Japanese scientists have announced.

"We will monitor its movements, and the data will enable us to accurately predict the future paths of asteroids that are on course to come close to the Earth."
posted by eiro0701 (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
So where do I have to hide with my guns and my water and my wolfdog Dragon?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2009


In case anyone wants to scoff at the size of thing, consider the following:
in 1908, a huge explosion occurred above Tunguska, Siberia. The cause was not a malfunctioning alien star-cruiser but a small asteroid or comet that detonated as it approached the ground. The blast had hundreds of times the force of the Hiroshima bomb and devastated an area of several hundred square miles. Had the explosion occurred above London or Paris, the city would no longer exist. Mark Boslough, a researcher at the Sandia National Laboratory, in New Mexico, recently concluded that the Tunguska object was surprisingly small, perhaps only 30 meters across.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


We will monitor its movements, and the data will enable us to accurately predict the future paths of asteroids that are on course to come close to the Earth.
Ummm... isn't that just straightforward mechanics?
posted by Flunkie at 2:20 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing:

Omg i saw a show about that on the history channel a year or two ago!
posted by eiro0701 at 2:21 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


a researcher at the Sandia National Laboratory, in New Mexico, recently concluded that the Tunguska object was surprisingly small, perhaps only 30 meters across.

HAYABUSA:
Core 1m x 1.6m x 2m
5.7m full width at deployment of solar paddle


Not TOO worried.
posted by brundlefly at 2:30 PM on June 12, 2009


Tunguska, let's be generous and give it a radius of 20 meters, and then make it entirely of iron, since it was such a big deal. No word on velocities, so we'll assume ceteris paribus there. Tunguska would be 263 million kilograms, as compared to 510 kilograms.

So I am approximately 1.93284 x 10-6 as frightened of this as I am of Tunguska. And I'm not even in Russia.
posted by adipocere at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I suppose it's a start, their efforts to accurately monitor and predict incoming objects. But still, it feels a bit like Deep Impact: "We can say with certainty that when the asteroid hits 3 meters from the Eiffel Tower, Paris will be destroyed."

/cynic
posted by Brak at 2:42 PM on June 12, 2009


A cubic foot of iron weighs 450 pounds. How are we going up into the hundreds of millions of kilograms within 20 meters? PS: I'm generally bad at math, so dumb it down for me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:44 PM on June 12, 2009


surprised I'm the first one to say: What could possibly go wrong?
posted by wendell at 2:53 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


radius = 20 m
volume = 4/3 * pi * radius3 = 33,510.315 m3
mass = volume * density = 33,510.315 m3 * 1,000,000 cm3 / m3 * 7.874 g / cm3 = 263,860,220,310 grams
= 263,860,220 kilograms.

Just think about the kinetic energy in that puppy.
posted by adipocere at 2:53 PM on June 12, 2009


MStPT :

volume of a sphere radius r = (4/3)*pi*r^3.
20m ~= 65.6ft
(4/3)*pi*65.6^3 ~= 1,182,758f^3 , over a million cubit feet.

That's how you get to millions of kg mass in a 20 meter sphere. Cubes get big fast.
posted by aspo at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2009


and I should have previewed
posted by aspo at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2009


isn't that just straightforward mechanics?

I had the same thought, but I wonder about complications and odd aerodynamic effects from the solar panels and other protrustions, and the thing spinning or tumbling into the atmosphere. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that some spin could change the trajectory, or maybe not. *shrug*
posted by exogenous at 2:59 PM on June 12, 2009


...and beat to the punch by aspo & adipocere. but but but I had the π symbol and everything. shucks.
posted by juv3nal at 3:02 PM on June 12, 2009


Glad I didn't ask for the long version!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:19 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, just thinking out loud here -- Voyager 2 is currently going 16km/s (35, 790 mph)

At 750 kilograms, that's 92 288 000 000 joules of kinetic energy.

Which is the equivalent of 22 tons of TNT if it somehow smacked into earth (or anything, really)

Have we sent out any probes that would pack more punch than that in an impact?

(my math may be very wrong, i'm not a physicist)
posted by empath at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2009


A hole has appeared in the Earth's atmosphere.

Scientists are looking into it.
posted by netbros at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


My fellow nerds, I must say that the kinetic energy from the little bugger will largely dissipate as parts of it vaporize in the atmosphere. Of course as the size goes up, the surface:volume ratio goes down mumble mumble mumble
posted by exogenous at 3:29 PM on June 12, 2009


Remember when I said that the only solution was to take off and nuke it for orbit? I WAS TOTALLY KIDDING!!!!

Sorry.
posted by John of Michigan at 3:31 PM on June 12, 2009


in 1908, a huge explosion occurred above Tunguska, Siberia. The cause was not a malfunctioning alien star-cruiser

PROVE IT
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:36 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


in 1908, a huge explosion occurred above Tunguska, Siberia. The cause was not a malfunctioning alien star-cruiser

PROVE IT


As noted above, "had the explosion occurred above London or Paris, the city would no longer exist." Wouldn't a malfunctioning star-cruiser take a second shot and actually wipe out London? (I'm pretty sure they don't have any qualms with the French.)
posted by filthy light thief at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2009


It'll likely land in the water, so I'm honestly not too concerned about it. All the fishies in the area would probably die though (like fishing with dynamite!). I wonder how far the shockwave would extend? Anyone have a clue how the wave would dissipate in water over distance?
posted by scrutiny at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2009


What is it with the Japanese? First the collide with the Moon, and now this?
posted by pjern at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2009


This reminds me of the time I wanted to prove to the insurance company that my car would not face too much damage in a car crash, so I went at it with a sledgehammer. They did not give me a discount.

Seriously, I know it's bound to just scare some sea critters at worst, but it seems like funny methodolgy as stated above. It's like how the pop-science articles implied that the scientists at CERN had no idea whatsoever what the LHC would do.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:12 PM on June 12, 2009


It's Japanese science. I'm sure they'll somehow manage to take out a couple of whales in the process, for sushi obviously.

Sushi? I meant research of course!
posted by substrate at 4:43 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This seems like trouble! Now that Associate Professor Newman is working at NASA, do you think he still has his homemade Skylab Tracking Device somewhere?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:57 PM on June 12, 2009


"June 7, 2010: A day that will live in infamy..."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:02 PM on June 12, 2009


It'll likely land in the water, so I'm honestly not too concerned about it.

An interesting thing about a water landing, especially in the case of larger bodies like the theoretical "planet killer," is that water landings actually do more damage world-wide. Now, I'm no physicist, but I've read an article or two, and the commonest theme has been that, when an extra terrestrial object of any size hits solid ground (or explodes in the atmosphere) it does extensive local damage, like the Tunguska event. However, any sizable object will be hot enough to vaporize the water it hits, causing a shockwave and a wall of fast-moving superheated air that flash-fries anything in its path. The secondary effect of this vaporization is tons of water vapor and particulate matter gets thrown into the air, causing destabilization to weather patterns. The effect of a water landing could be seen as analogous to the eruption of a supervolcano.

Of course, all this depends on the size of the rock we're talking about.
posted by lekvar at 5:08 PM on June 12, 2009


Here's something amusing. Today, we have the second recorded case of a person being struck by a meteorite and surviving.
posted by adipocere at 5:16 PM on June 12, 2009


An interesting thing about a water landing, especially in the case of larger bodies like the theoretical "planet killer," is that water landings actually do more damage world-wide.
You totally forgot the part where the water landing wakes a sleeping baby monster, which goes on to destroy Manhattan and various 20-something yuppies
posted by happyroach at 5:42 PM on June 12, 2009


Mothra will save us!
posted by paddbear at 5:56 PM on June 12, 2009


"JAXA, Why are you launching a series of 500 million kg. probes???"

"Um, no reason really. Gotta go now, Babylon5 is on and it's one of those great Centauri episodes. You could really learn a lot from those guys!"
posted by djrock3k at 7:54 PM on June 12, 2009


I wonder how "loud" the oceanic shockwave would be. Would all the whales go deaf? Maybe then they'd quit that blasted singing.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:46 AM on June 13, 2009


I posted in March about the meteorite tracked from sky to ground.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2009


It'll likely land in the water, so I'm honestly not too concerned about it.

lekvar An interesting thing about a water landing, especially in the case of larger bodies like the theoretical "planet killer," is that water landings actually do more damage world-wide. Now, I'm no physicist, but I've read an article or two...


By "article or two," I am assuming you mean "Deep Impact."
posted by callmejordan at 1:24 PM on June 13, 2009


callmejordan, I figured somebody would draw that connection eventually, but no. The first time I encountered the idea was in a science & fiction anthology from the 50's or 60's. It was a mix of hard science fiction short stories and articles of interest from the actual science of the day. One article was from a physicist who methodically explained what would happen in the event of an asteroid strike, complete with data and math to show where he was getting the numbers. Admittedly, most of the math went right over my head, but the author also explained the logic behind his conclusions in nice small words, and that part I understood. Understand that this article was written many decades before the asteroid strike became the "flavor of the month" in Hollywood, and I read it some time in the mid-to-late 80's. These ideas have been around a long time.
posted by lekvar at 11:50 AM on June 14, 2009


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