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Friday, February 08, 2013

Interesting Events : Earth's Close Encounter with an Asteroid

Remember the movie "Armageddon" starring Bruce Willis? The movie is about a gigantic asteroid that is about to hit the earth and its impact would cause catastrophic destruction in global proportion and wipe out most if not all humans on earth. In the movie, a group of "renegade" astronauts (mostly oil drillers) were sent on a mission to plant a nuclear(?) bomb deep inside the asteroid's interior to disintegrate it to pieces before it reaches the earth and avert earth's sure destruction. A similar incident is about to happen next week, but unlike in the movie, there would be no direct hit or impact, just a close encounter. Hopefully!

On the 15th of February, 50-meter Asteroid 2012 DA14 will swing or fly-by near the earth's atmosphere (even nearer to Earth compared to the orbits of communication satellites). NASA scientists calculated that the asteroid nearest fly-by within the earth would be about 17,000 miles from the surface. It would be so far that it would not be visible with the naked eye. Considering a worst scenario, scientists believe that a direct hit would have an energy  equivalent to 2.4 million tons of TNT and would wipe out an area of 750 square miles. But the NASA scientists assure that there will be no direct hit or impact on Earth.

What are asteroids?

"Asteroids are small, airless rocky worlds revolving around the sun that are too small to be called planets. They are also known as planetoids or minor planets."

"Most asteroids lie in a vast ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This main belt holds more than 200 asteroids larger than 60 miles (100 kilometers) in diameter. Scientists estimate the asteroid belt also contains more than 750,000 asteroids larger than three-fifths of a mile (1 kilometer) in diameter and millions of smaller ones."

"Asteroids are leftovers from the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Early on, the birth of Jupiter prevented any planetary bodies from forming in the gap between Mars and Jupiter, causing the small objects that were there to collide with each other and fragment into the asteroids seen today."
Source :

According to Donald Yeomans, manager of  NASA's Near-Earth Object program, asteroids hitting the earth is a normal and daily phenomenon :

"Space rocks hit the Earth's atmosphere on a daily basis, Basketball-size objects come in daily.Volkswagen-size objects come in every couple of weeks"
The grand total of stuff hitting the atmosphere everyday? "About 100 tons,"according to Yeomans,though most of it arrives harmlessly as sand-sized particles.
Quoted from an article by : Marcia Dunn-Associated Press

Let's just hope the Mayan calendar doesn't end on 2013.

Photo Source :  NASA/JPL-Caltech
News Source :
Video Source :

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