Ad notam. Diverse years' notes/3.2

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Ad notam. Diverse years' notes/3.2
by Andrei Lubensky


Killer Asteroid Approaching the Earth?[edit]

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the British Society for Popular Astronomy said: “Now we start realizing that we are living in the world that is a real shooting range in fact. Until now, the mankind was lucky.” He added that only when the last generation of telescopes appeared, astronomers understood that the space was polluted with “tiny” meteorites and asteroids, each of them may wipe a large city off the face of the Earth. Not so much time ago, a meteorite called 2000YA passed by the planet, it was just 800 thousand kilometers from the Earth, which is a short distance judging by the astronomic standards. The meteorite moved at the speed of over 36 km/sec. Scagell says that the meteorite could turn the central part of London into a mess if it hit London. To tell the truth, there are even larger meteorites that pass the planet.

Recently, on December 27, 2002 Ukraine’s newspaper Pravda Ukraini (Ukrainian Truth) published a sensation that attracted little attention in the fuss on the New Year’s eve. The newspaper reported that a meteorite called Eight (it is called so by its shape) was approaching the Earth and would hit the planet on January 25, 2003. It was also reported that “leaders and scientists of the world largest countries started incredibly heated disputes on the problem. The world practice witnessed such situation for the first time. It was also for the first time that projects of astrophysicists were discussed at parliamentary sessions in Central Europe. The reason to it was a huge meteorite hundreds times larger than the famous Tunguska meteorite, which can drop on the Earth on January 25, 2003. The most optimistic forecasts say that if the meteorite falls, it may raze to the ground the territory of several thousands of square kilometers.”

The newspaper cited President of the Boston Center for Space Research and Observation, Herbert Coliander who said that “no doubt that the meteorite discovered four years ago will fall on the Earth.” The problem was discussed at a G7 session in Warsaw, where it was suggested that a special group for averting a catastrophe must be created. The newspaper reported at that: “However, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly declared such hasty actions were ungrounded.”

Baikal Lake is one of the possible spots of the meteorite’s falling; if the catastrophe occurs, the lake will turn into one more ocean, not to mention the accompanying climate cataclysms.

It is strange that the information about the approaching cataclysm caused just slightest anxiety. Probably, the Ukrainian newspaper made a misprint, and the meteorite may hit the Earth not in 2003, but in 2013 or even in 2113. This doesn’t change the situation radically, as the mankind is not yet ready for resistance to danger going from the sky and unlikely to be ready for it very soon. Indeed, the above mentioned 2000YA meteorite was detected when it already passed by the Earth. After that, a report of three scientists warning of a real meteorite danger was published in Great Britain. The report suggested that a system of anti-meteorite protection covering the whole of the planet must be created.

On June 14, 2002, asteroid 2002MN of about 100 meters in length passed by the Earth at a distance of 120 thousand kilometers (it is less than one third of the distance between the Earth and the Moon). And the asteroid was detected only in three days after it successfully passed the planet. The problem is that the “space guards” still have no equipment to detect such “small” objects.

A meteorite threat is not a myth, but reality. Let’s remember the Tunguska meteorite which explosion in 1908 was equivalent to the explosion of 500 nuclear bombs. Fortunately, the meteorite blew up over the Siberian taiga. What would happen if it didn’t? There is a hypothesis saying that dinosaurs were killed with an asteroid of 5 kilometers in diameter. About 40 meteorite craters with the diameter of more than 20 kilometers were discovered on the planet. It means that large celestial bodies collided with the Earth and will do in the future as well.

Famous journalist and researcher Yaroslav Golovanov wrote: “90% of all asteroids are orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. There are thousands, if not millions of asteroids. They are large and small; judging by calculations, 17% of the large asteroids have tiny satellites of their own. (About one billion of comets outside the Solar system are not taken into consideration at that. 20% of celestial bodies that are dangerous for the Earth are just exactly new comets that are difficult to predict). Some asteroids de-orbit and approach the Earth under the influence of the Solar system planets’ gravitation. It is currently considered that there are 1000-1100 asteroids of this kind. It was determined that about 400 of them are approximately of one kilometer in size.” Astronomers calculated that about 160 asteroids cross the Earth orbit, 125 of them are potentially dangerous. According to other information, about two million asteroids of over 50 meters in diameter cross the Earth orbit.

What can be done? We must seek new modern methods of detection of killer asteroids and instruments of liquidation of these asteroids. These are the main objectives of Russia’s Space Shield Foundation in the city of Snezhinsk, the Federal Nuclear Center of Russia; the international organization Space Guard is working on the problem in Europe; space protection is developed in the USA on the governmental level. However, it is too early to speak about complete space safety of the Earth. For better security, not only systems of detection must be created, but also systems of interception of dangerous objects, that certainly costs a lot. It will be possible only if the mankind joins the efforts for creation of a space shield. Meanwhile, it is highly likely that the killer asteroid is approaching the Earth, but we still don’t realize this fact.


Andrey Lubensky

PRAVDA.Ru 17.01.2003

Translated by Maria Gousseva