July 23, 2002 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Gotterdammerung. It's big, it's bad, and it's due in 2019. Dammit, who's going to rock me to sleep tonight? [via /.]
posted by tankboy (31 comments total)
I hope Bruce Willis is available, come 2019. If history has taught us anything, it's that only he can save us.

(and no, Affleck, you can't help)
posted by mathowie at 7:28 PM on July 23, 2002

I love that picture. Just in case you couldn't imagine how horrible and devastating it would be, here is an image of the earth acting like a water droplet caught on high-speed film.
posted by nprigoda at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2002

First of all, it seems to have been recently downgraded. The article claims it's 0.06 on the Palermo Scale, while NASA says it's -0.14. Both of these numbers basically mean "it's worth keeping an eye on, but no big deal," but the negative sign is more comforting. (Watch out, it seems that server is currently being slashdotted.)

Secondly, that illustration in the BBC article... the thing smashing into Earth looks to be close to the size of the Moon!
posted by whatnotever at 7:40 PM on July 23, 2002

I wonder how long it will be before I see, "Lost Prophecies of Nostradamus Reveal World-Ending Catastrophe in 2019!!!" headlines in the grocery aisle....
posted by LuxFX at 7:54 PM on July 23, 2002

that noise you hear? that's the buzzing noise of high-school boys everywhere contemplating how this potential catastrophe can get them laid before everyone forgets about the news story. "c'mon baby, lets live tonight like it's our last night on earth!"
posted by machaus at 7:59 PM on July 23, 2002

Plan: let's unite around this and stop killing one another.
posted by donkeyschlong at 8:08 PM on July 23, 2002

Related story here
posted by skallas at 8:15 PM on July 23, 2002

As we speak, a script is being written for Bruce Willis by the Near Earth Object Dynamic Site. The wisecracks will be added later by another team.
posted by liam at 8:27 PM on July 23, 2002

skallas, I knew I recognized that graphic from somewhere!
posted by whatnotever at 8:28 PM on July 23, 2002

January 1, 2019:

...So, why don't we continue this at
the staff meeting tomorrow morning!

Heheheh... suckers.

posted by GriffX at 8:30 PM on July 23, 2002

I like how the problem of "Near Earth Objects" is now supposedly being "properly addressed".

Meaning: We're actually looking for them now. We can't do anything if we see one, but we'll at least be able to say one's coming.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:57 PM on July 23, 2002

Surely this giant rock will break up in the atmosphere and end up no bigger than a Chihuahua's head.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 9:15 PM on July 23, 2002

Why have we been relatively "near Earth object" free for the whole of human history, and now we have a near miss every month or so?
posted by evanizer at 9:20 PM on July 23, 2002

because now we know, and knowing is half the battle!
posted by Mick at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2002

ignorance is bliss, no?
posted by gyc at 9:31 PM on July 23, 2002

Why have we been relatively "near Earth object" free for the whole of human history, and now we have a near miss every month or so?

shhhh, I trying to get laid!
posted by machaus at 9:31 PM on July 23, 2002

in case it didn't come thru the snark, evanizer, it's because we weren't looking before.

the objects were whizzing about like objects tend to do, we're just now noticing them. and it's no small feat. some of the most difficult things to see would be objects like these.

now, maybe this is just cause i'm reading the stand right now (they're in boulder having just elected the committee) but... let's just say this was going to happen, there's nothing that could be done. nothing with a high chance of success anyway, so... would they (yes - they) just perpetuate the information that it was indeed a harmless object?

object object object
posted by folktrash at 9:43 PM on July 23, 2002


Oh, damn, the end of the world isn't until February 1.
Now I have to do that presentation. Oh no!
Powerpoint 2019 just melted my eyetop computer.
Ouch. Woe is me.

posted by billder at 9:52 PM on July 23, 2002

Damn, I thought this was going to be some badass Wagner adaptation for Summer 2003.
posted by mblandi at 9:52 PM on July 23, 2002

the thing smashing into Earth looks to be close to the size of the Moon!

It's much bigger than the asteroid in the story, sure, but if you compare the relative sizes of the earth/asteroid in the NASA image with the earth/moon at the bottom of this page, you'll find the asteroid in the NASA image is nowhere near the size of the moon.

We're actually looking for them now. We can't do anything if we see one, but we'll at least be able to say one's coming.

Except for the ones that we can't see until they've already passed, of course. Darn that pesky blind spot in the direction of the sun! Sure is too bad the hunt for potentially deadly asteroids is underfunded and government officials so clueless, though. Oh well. At least some folks are on the case.
posted by mediareport at 9:57 PM on July 23, 2002

Why have we been relatively "near Earth object" free for the whole of human history, and now we have a near miss every month or so?

Not quite. There was a pretty famous impact in 1908 near Tunguska in Siberia. Scroll down to the bottom of that page linked and you'll get you answer.

Most impacts occur in the ocean or over unpopulated land and so would not have been noticed for the majority of human history unless they had been catastrophic.
posted by euphorb at 10:00 PM on July 23, 2002

oh, i get it. i can post links.
posted by folktrash at 10:05 PM on July 23, 2002

What a great link, euphorb. "In 1972, a 1000-ton object skimmed tangentially through Earth's atmosphere over the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, and then skipped back out into space, like a stone skipping off water."

Like his paintings, too (that was for you, folktrash. Mwa).
posted by mediareport at 10:19 PM on July 23, 2002

i've puzzled for a little while now...mwa? maybe a link would help me.
posted by folktrash at 10:28 PM on July 23, 2002

Well, I just brushed my teeth and set the alarm, so this is the best I can do.

Sure would love if it became the norm to include more than one link in front page posts, though.
posted by mediareport at 10:40 PM on July 23, 2002

mediareport: Darn that pesky blind spot in the direction of the sun

Its path cannot always be behind the sun. There's no real blind spot as much as there is a 'blind time' for objects with paths like that.
posted by skallas at 12:34 AM on July 24, 2002

mr: Or at least some context. MeFi Mystery Meat(Loaf), the nightly favorite.

skallas: which is precisely why we need to find them before they come at us out of the blind spot.

This one will whiz close by, but it wouldn't be the first one to pass inside the Moon's orbit. As I've said before, the thing isn't so much that the risk has increased, as that now we a) know they're out there; b) have the means to find them; and c) have the potential means to do something about it.

Before the 1990s the assumption was that impacts were rare. The moon was still pockmarked because it didn't change; the era of asteroid impacts was over millennia ago, and theories like a comet killed the dinosaurs were still viewed as crank hysteria by many scientists. Then the evidence began to emerge for the KT event (although whether it actually killed the dinosaurs is still open to some argument); the Trans-Neptunian Objects -- the Kuyper Belt -- began to be discovered; and geologists looking into the impact catastrophe theory began finding craters all over the place, even very recently; and scientific access to Tunguska has removed much of the mystery that once surrounded this event shrouded by Cold War paranoia. So now, after 10-15 years of significantly related scientific discovery, we have concluded instead that the solar system is full of junk -- and that small junk hits the Earth all the time, and slightly larger junk certainly hits the Earth on an historical scale. With that in mind, the Spaceguard movement heated up, sparking two movies, but much more than just hype -- because they find new Potentially Hazardous Objects at an increasing pace.
posted by dhartung at 1:05 AM on July 24, 2002

My question regarding this is, has the orbit of this object been calculated out to 2019 independent of the influence of all the other hundreds of thousands of objects in space? Surely the gravitational influence of all the asteroids, planets, and other assorted crap whizzing around the solar system would serve at least to blur the sharpness of our projections, right? I can't imagine that these underfunded people have the resources at their disposal to track every object that may influence this asteroid over the next 17 years and calculate precisely how they all would affect it's trajectory.
posted by donkeymon at 8:57 AM on July 24, 2002

Does a sci-fi short about people with ESP-type powers scanning alotted sections of space for objects on a collision course with Earth mean anything to anyone? Loneliness was important for some reason and... and...

Curse you, sieve-like brain.
posted by MUD at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2002

donkeymon, that's exactly why there's a probability attached to the calculation (which has now returned to a -0.06 as more observations come in, even while increasing from 4 to 6 earth radii). But unless an asteroid runs wide by Jupiter or really close to a planet, it may experience negligible change in its orbit. We can't be entirely certain until the final curve, so to speak, but right now it's not about certainty; it's about judging whether there's a reasonable risk to be worried about. Give this one about two weeks -- or better yet, months -- and we'll have sufficient data to really know if it's as dangerous as it appears right now. By then, somebody might have been able to run a simulation on a supercomputer using the known planets, at least, to get an approximation to a satisfactory level.

Meanwhile, there are lots of close approaches that are much more mathematically certain; 2002 NT7, though new, probably will not appear on this list, which ends at around 0.05AU rather than the 0.09AU that object is presently slated to pass us by. Still, anything that comes between us and the Moon's orbit is just a little troubling.
posted by dhartung at 1:17 PM on July 24, 2002

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