Wednesday, 28 July 2010

It's not the end of the world you know....

In some of the 'science' press, usually during the 'silly season' which runs from July to September, someone will post an article that the 'end of the world' is approaching. The apocalypse usually takes the form of a immense new star massive black hole mutant stargoat giant asteroid hurtling towards our poor dear, defenceless ickle planet and OH MY GOD we're all gonna DIIEEE!

Yes, possibly. Well maybe. Or then again maybe not. Well certainly not in 2012. Tell you what, if the Earth gets destroyed by a major asteroid in the next forty years I'll give five thousand dollars to the first person to tell me 'I told you so'.

The next close approach of a sizeable, (595m diameter) asteroid (Designation 2003 UV11) is estimated to happen on 30th October 2010. Now 595 metres is a fair size, and would take an able bodied person around eight minutes or so to walk, assuming they walk at about 4.8 kilometres and hour (3mph). However, said object is going to miss Earth by an estimated 5 Lunar Distances. A lunar distance is 384,403 Kilometres (238,857 miles), which makes the miss 1,922,015, or almost two million kilometres or 1,194,285 miles. That's a longer stroll, in fact you'd have to keep walking non stop for over 45 years to cover said distance. Phew, close one, eh?

Most of the time we miss most of the various bits of rock on a final kamikaze into Earth's atmosphere simply because they fall when and where nobody is looking. It is estimated in some quarters that over 100 to 3000 astronomical objects or meteorites 'hit' the Earth every day, and have been doing so since before life evolved on this planet. Most are relatively small, and if you count micro meteors, estimates rise to 500,000 events entering Earth's atmosphere a day.

Funnily enough, we ain't dead yet.

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