Monday, August 09, 2004

Candidate for Most Misleading News Headline of the Year........

"Asteroid Threat 'To Cease Within 30 Years'"

By John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent, PA News

Killer asteroids will essentially cease to be a threat within the next 30 years, a leading expert said today.

Scientists are discovering near-earth asteroids (NEAs) so fast that the chances of one hitting the Earth with no warning is likely to become minute, said Dr Benny Peiser.

Since 1995 the number of known NEAs had shot up from just 300 to 3,000.

By 2008, it was expected that 90% of the estimated 1,000 to 1,200 asteroids big enough to wipe out civilisation would be found, said Dr Peiser, one of the world’s leading asteroid experts from Liverpool John Moores University.

The rest of these space rocks, measuring more than a kilometre across, would probably be detected within the next 20 years.

Two powerful new telescopes due to start operating in the next few years would find as many asteroids each month as have been discovered in the last decade, said Dr Peiser.

“Within the next one or two generations we will no longer have asteroid impact disaster movies,” he said at a science briefing in London.

“The good news is we have now developed not just the knowledge about the threat we face but also potentially the technology with which to deal with it.”

Future discoveries and space missions would provide information about how to deflect an asteroid on collision course with the Earth.

Within 20 to 30 years, search systems would exist with the ability to detect 90% of all NEAs larger than 150 metres across.

Dr Peiser said if an asteroid did hit the Earth it would be most likely to strike an uninhabited region or an ocean.

First of all, the threat of an asteroid striking the planet is never going away. We will get struck by a large asteroid again. It is not a question of if, but a question of when. As far as our upgrades in telescopes are concerned, we have made major strides in our ability to fully scan our solar system and pick out potential NEO's. NASA is to be commended for their efforts in this area. I might as well add that they still aren't spending enough money in this area, but hey, what do I know anyways.

Dr. Peiser states that we have also developed the "potential" technology to deal with the threat. I would like to hear more about this technology, because it is my understanding that we currently have absolutely NOTHING available to mitigate a large NEO moving at the insane speeds that they do. Small ones, maybe, but lets once again think about this- a large 1km plus asteroid, potentially made of iron and other metals, moving at speeds ranging from mach 10-mach 20, would not be an easy thing to stop. I would enjoy hearing Dr Peiser expand on this theme.

There is also the talk of "future" missions and discoveries that will save us, but that is not an answer for right now. Until we have the technology, we are still screwed if one is found. We have nothing even remotely capable of dealing with this kind of problem. We can barely keep the Space Shuttles from falling apart and they want us to believe we have something ready for this?

The last part of the briefing from above involves the statement that even "if an asteroid did hit the Earth it would be most likely to strike an uninhabited region or an ocean". Yeah, so? It really doesn't matter where something 1 km or bigger hits, the effects of the impact would be felt worldwide in multiple forms of instant death. From the shockwave to the possible tidal wave, any asteroid of this size will cause unimaginable damage.

For a decent study that was performed concerning the impacts, visit the Sandia Labs sight for more information. A brief sample-

"This computer-generated image by Sandia National Laboratories' scientists shows the impact of a 1-km comet (or asteroid) hitting in the open ocean. The comet and 300 to 500 cubic kilometers of ocean water would be vaporized nearly instantaneously by the tremendous energy of the impact. The impact energy of about 300 gigatons of TNT would be equivalent to about 10 times the explosive power of all the nuclear weapons in existence in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War."

Sleep well.

No comments: