Tuesday, January 29, 2008


A few hours ago a large, oblong object, romantically christened Asteroid 2007 TU24, hurdled, somewhat closer than our own moon, above the local night side of Earth, three thirty-three am on the east coast of the US, plainly visible to those who knew where to point lenses of a certain power. This was a near miss.* Breathless armchair disaster ecologists speculated all manner of Earthly trauma. Breathless scientists got excited about what TU24 would reveal to us about outer solar system objects. At least they eventually did, after months of fine-tuning their expectations of the thing’s trajectory: since discovery, TU24 hasn't changed course, but our mathematicians needed to occasionally revise the distance by which it was predicted to miss us. This leads to questions: why couldn't we extrapolate the danger correctly, quantify the route precisely, from the moment we discovered the rock was out there? And wow, did we really only first notice this thing hurtling at us on October eleventh 2007? Dark objects in space are hard to see, and the farther out they are the smaller their signature in the vastness of space. How much damage would TU24 have done had it struck Earth? We don't really know that either, of course: we know how large it is by dimensions but not mass (and we'd rather have a 600 meter long bag of Styrofoam packing peanuts hit us in the Gobi than a similarly sized hunk of glowing uranium land somewhere on the ring of fire, you know?). Obviously, we've been alerted to our need to identify near-Earth objects earlier, track them faster, and then, impossibly for the time being, alter them when necessary. This has been in the common sci-fi phobia for a while. But to date--today's date--our sci-fact record is still dubious. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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