Plans for this summer? Asteroid strike, maybe?
January 26, 2006 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Asteroid to graze past Earth this summer...but how close? If you liked 2004 MN4, you're bound to enjoy 2006 BQ6. Very small but real chance it could even hit around the end of July, beginning of August this year. NASA isn't officially tracking it yet, but they are including it in their report of upcoming close approaches, where the minimum possible distance The discussion puts everything into perspective, including graphs and charts and such.
posted by gimonca (47 comments total)
That discussion mentions something more likely than the tiny, tiny possibility that it actually hits--the chance that it might be visible to the naked eye when it passes, which could be cool.
posted by gimonca at 8:18 PM on January 26, 2006

*stocks up on food and guns, hides in the wilderness*
posted by exlotuseater at 8:27 PM on January 26, 2006

I'll be at summer camp in northern Wisconsin when this thing hits or misses. That's pretty much the wilderness. And there are guns there. So I'll either be prepared for the fall of civilization when it hits like exlotuseater or glad I'm far from any light pollution when it goes whizzing by in the night sky.

posted by PhatLobley at 8:35 PM on January 26, 2006

Right fuckin' on!
posted by keswick at 8:37 PM on January 26, 2006

I think we just found a solution to global warming.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:52 PM on January 26, 2006

(from the last link in the post) - 829 megatons. I concur with the post in that link: "Wow".

Anyone know where we Mac folks can find something similar to Orbit Simulator's downloadadble PC executable (and where either platform can find that data the folks in the linked thread are using)?
posted by hrbrmstr at 9:03 PM on January 26, 2006

hrbrmstr: You need the ephemeris data from the Minor Planet Center. There are multiple programs that support inputting them. I wouldn't count on anything "retail" to be accurate in terms of an Earth flyby, though -- they're for finding something traveling across the solar system at a reasonable distance.
posted by dhartung at 9:22 PM on January 26, 2006

1 in 20,000 (this early) sounds awfully optimistic (or, very pessimistic) to me. Hopefully it doesn't hit, but if it passed close enough to see with the naked eye -- that's just cool.
posted by purephase at 9:28 PM on January 26, 2006

Torino scale 1!!!! It's gonna hit!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 PM on January 26, 2006

just joking!!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:33 PM on January 26, 2006

I remember the last big visible comet. It was about a twelve years ago. Big thing off in the west. Really helped me understand why comets were such a big deal back in ye olden days. Really impressive.

IIRC, there was another visible comet within a year and a half of the big one. Blows me away to think I might live to see three. What are the chances?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on January 26, 2006

2006 BBQ6?
posted by NewBornHippy at 9:37 PM on January 26, 2006

So this is it? We're all going to die?
posted by pompomtom at 9:41 PM on January 26, 2006

Is it bringing oil? Is it bringing us sweet, delicious crude?
posted by Rothko at 10:48 PM on January 26, 2006

it's bringing a lot of energy ... does that count?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 PM on January 26, 2006

If you liked 2004 MN4, you're bound to enjoy 2006 BQ6.

Dude I love that near death shit. Can't wait.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:58 PM on January 26, 2006

2006 BBQ6?

The extra 'B' is for blazin'.
posted by Rothko at 10:59 PM on January 26, 2006

Nostradamus predicted this in 1654:
"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Barbeque 6 descends from the sky,
Apocalypse from heaven."
posted by missbossy at 11:22 PM on January 26, 2006

maybe we can finally get rid of bruce willis and ben aflek
posted by medium format at 11:24 PM on January 26, 2006

Besides missing us and hitting us, there is perhaps a third possibility: the asteroid could be captured by Earth's graviational field, and become a second moon. Can anybody guess the odds of that happening?
posted by e-man at 11:54 PM on January 26, 2006

Uh oh. When the time comes, the important thing is to observe a strict, 1000 mile distance from Pat Robertson at all times.

The downside if the asteroid doesn't hit: Robertson will take credit for saving the earth. Not sure which is worse.
posted by Davenhill at 11:55 PM on January 26, 2006

Oh god are we all just about to perish due to meteoric impact AGAIN?
posted by JHarris at 1:26 AM on January 27, 2006

Oh. This puts the avian flu vaccine into perspective. I'll hold on to my canned goods and stock up on fire arms and alcohol. Maybe we could build forts.
posted by The God Complex at 1:32 AM on January 27, 2006

Somebody call president Morgan Freeman! And is Elija Woods going to make it with his girlfriend, Helen Hunt Jr Leelee Sobieski?
posted by antifuse at 2:19 AM on January 27, 2006

Oh. This puts the avian flu vaccine into perspective.

Not to mention Peak Oil.

Reading through that discussion, the highest estimates -- so far -- of this thing's size and potential impact energy are slightly less than the 1000-megaton threshold for "nuclear winter." But that was only an estimate too, since nobody wanted to find out for sure. So I guess we'd get "nuclear autumn" instead?
posted by alumshubby at 2:56 AM on January 27, 2006

Five Fresh Fish, this is an asteroid, not a comet. The difference is this is not spewing material from its surface. If it does indeed become naked eye visible it will be a 'moving star' unless it gets real close in which case you'll be able to actually see a width to it.

There is Halley's comet which came last in 1986 and won't be back until 2062. But in the mid 90's there were at least three well known comets:

Shoemaker Levy in '94 (the one that broke apart as it dived into Jupiter provided some spectacular stellar fireworks.

Hale Bopp (1997) which was the focus of the Heaven's Gate cult. (It was their spaceship according the their belief)

1996 gave us Comet Hyukatake. This comet was really bright due to its closeness to passing Earth.

Of course these are all comets.
2006 BQ6 is an asteroid and doesn't have a bright coma to help attract attention.

(info for the comets can be found here)
posted by Phantomx at 3:08 AM on January 27, 2006

Let's Roll!
posted by Hands of Manos at 3:43 AM on January 27, 2006

I'm not worried. We will be saved by a mighty triangle formed out of three luminous lines. Unless the UFO gets it first in which case we will need another quarter.
posted by srboisvert at 4:46 AM on January 27, 2006

All we know at this point is that Steve Buscemi is going to die.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:17 AM on January 27, 2006

Torino scale 1!!!! It's gonna hit!

Actually, the scale runs from zero to ten.

Put it another probably were looking at this? Current probability of impact is is 1.6e-04, or 1 in 161,000. Well, that is higher than my chances of winning big in the multistate lottery...
posted by alumshubby at 5:27 AM on January 27, 2006

We will be saved by a mighty triangle formed out of three luminous lines.

In the interest of pedancy, six luminous lines.

(the tail was more complex that you remember. Hmm. Isn't that always true?)
posted by eriko at 5:29 AM on January 27, 2006

It's back to a T-scale 0, which implies that the error "tube" -- the volume of space where the asteroid will pass, given the best known ephemeris and accounting for errors (which is why it is a tube, not a line) -- no longer intersects the Earth.

When, on initial orbit, you end up with an near miss or Earth hit, getting better orbit information becomes a priority. Thus, the margin of error, and the tube that the asteroid might pass through, shrinks. The usual result is the chance of a hit increases (since there's less error, but we're still in the error bars) until the moment that the tube shrinks enough that Earth is clear, then the chance drops to 0.
posted by eriko at 5:36 AM on January 27, 2006

Interesting point. Thanks, eriko.
posted by Songdog at 5:49 AM on January 27, 2006

Try again, bugs!

(Starship Troopers fan!)
posted by qvantamon at 5:52 AM on January 27, 2006

What makes this one interesting is the combination of size, probable closeness of the encounter, and that the encounter is only half a year away. Any one of those attributes by itself is not unusual (people find near earth objects about this size several times a year, the teams that work on these are trying to narrow down the errors on lots of these on any given evening of observation), but the combination of all of them is enough to make you stop and go hmmm.

Slight correction: plenty of objects are Torino Scale 0 that could still hit. I don't see where this has been upgraded to 1 yet--it hasn't been downgraded. But its Palermo scale rating (which is less subjective than the Torino scale) is one of the highest out there at the moment.

The process of narrowing down exactly where it's going to go can be interesting to follow. NASA JPL Sentry does have it posted now.

It sounds as though people will be able to observe it right through July (in telescopes), so we should know how close it will come in advance. Right now, estimates are jumping all over the place. I still think it would be neat to look for on a dark summer night--I'm hoping for close, but not too close.
posted by gimonca at 6:04 AM on January 27, 2006

posted by rxrfrx at 6:14 AM on January 27, 2006

Sorry I don't have the details, but didn't an asteroid come out of nowhere about 7 years ago and whizz by within the radius of the moon's orbit?
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:13 AM on January 27, 2006

This is the science equivalent of a ransom note - give us more budget money or the asteroids get closer.....
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:22 AM on January 27, 2006

For perspective on that 829 megaton figure, the largest weapon ever detonated was 50 MT.

Tsar Bomba
posted by hupp at 7:33 AM on January 27, 2006

The link is pretty cool, and some interesting comments, including a nifty daily projections of the path of the object that have it vaccilating pretty much equidistant on either side of the earth-moon orbital sphere (on a 2-D plane). Good stuff.
posted by elendil71 at 8:14 AM on January 27, 2006

*maxes out credit cards*

I wonder if it will hit the space suit satellite?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:45 AM on January 27, 2006

The 50MT bomb linked could be seen and felt from 1000km! I wonder if 900 MT is accurate, but if so, it would be seen and felt everywhere.
posted by uni verse at 9:23 AM on January 27, 2006

Five Fresh Fish, this is an asteroid, not a comet.

Ah, bummer.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on January 27, 2006

Yay! Maybe Jaz (from Killing Joke) will be right about the asteroid and the end of the world this time! heh.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:35 AM on January 27, 2006

I read the thing, and I'm not really worried. The error "tube" is still mighty large. After a month or so of observation they should have a pretty solid orbit for us.

However, it would be interesting if someone could come up with a projection of where this thing will hit, going with the assumption of it hitting within a 500-mile radius circle in the center of the earth's disk with respect to the asteroid.

Y'know, just so we can have fun knowing where not to be. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 6:27 PM on January 27, 2006

"Sooner or later it was bound to happen..."
posted by bondcliff at 8:50 PM on January 27, 2006

If anybody's still following...gone gone, at least from the NASA point of view. It usually takes a little longer to go from a whole list of close-in probabilities to none at all.
posted by gimonca at 9:54 AM on January 29, 2006

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