February 22th, 2012 James L Bradley

Last Friday (February 15th 9:20am local time) the population living in and around the City of Chelyabinsk, Russia experienced the arrival of an extraterrestrial piece of space rock born some time ago in the Asteroid Belt out beyond Mars, this particular un-named and un-detected rock weighting in at around 10,000 tonnes and some 55 feet wide broke apart around 20-30 miles in the atmosphere, releasing approximately 500 kilotons of energy with a bright flash to be followed with an explosion that some compare to the 1215 kilotons of energy released as the Hiroshima atomic bomb dropped back in 1945. Some of our seven-billion plus inhabitants of our Blue Marble are wondering how this object, moving along at 40,000 mph, was not detected by our multi-million dollar investment in identifying in-coming pieces of rock as they streak towards our home world.. Now Chelyabinsk is by no means a huge city, being only 1.1 million strong living in its immediate metropolitan area, but when you consider lets say Anchorage (less than 300,000) or Seattle (plus 1.2mil) it ranks right up there with being a good sized city. Although no lives were lost, over 1,200 of its citizens were injured by the resultant shock wave, with some 270 buildings suffering structural damage and too many to count windows being blown out, whereas most the injuries were caused by the flying glass. This being the direct result of people rushing to the windows to see what was causing the bright light, evidentially the lessons the world learned during the Cold War (duck and cover) have been passed over or forgotten in today’s world. Along with glass shattering by the shock way, we now understand that some glass windows did not shatter while some glass inside some buildings were crushed by the sound created by the explosion – commonly referred to as “infrasound”, pity those who were wearing corrective lenses. Less than 24-hours after the Russian event the citizens of Cuba experienced a similar event, albeit on a much smaller scale, in addition the residents of San Francisco and its

surrounding region witnessed a meteorite illuminating the night sky around the same time – one would arrive at the impression that the meteors where once part of a much larger asteroid that broke apart some distance before it made its appearance in our Blue Marble’s atmosphere – an assumption to be sure. As for that other “rock” that missed us by some 17,000 miles it was discovered back on Feb 23rd, 2012 some 1.6 million miles from earth and traveling at 188mph took 358 days to skim our Blue Marble – not a speed burner like some other space stuff bumping around in our Solar System. Our scholars inform us that meteors such as the one in Russia bump into us every 10-to-30 years, and some around a half-mile wide every million years, fortunately those like the one that slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula every 100 millions years, you know the one at Chicxulub which created a 110-mile-wide crater and caused a mass extinction across our Blue Marble – some blame it as the beginning of the end for our dinosaurs. Scientists have somewhat nailed down the date as being 66,038,000 years ago, in case you’re wondering. Recent reports tell us that a “massive asteroid” crashed into a piece of Australia between 360 to 298 million years ago, they say it is believed to have been 12-miles wide, as for finding it – they say that the impact crater is buried beneath (on average) two-miles of dirt. According to our data it is the 3rd largest impact our Blue Marble has experienced – maybe? Remember our home is over 4 billion years old and a lot has happened to it over during that time period. Others involved in its discovery say the “rock” might have split in two before impact – nevertheless studies indicate that the dust and greenhouse gases released from the crater along with the seismic shock would have created a “fireball” that would have incinerated large parts of our planet. The greenhouse gases would have remained in our atmosphere for “tens-of-thousands” of years – note: The 280-350 year window of impact places it during the Devonian Mass Extinction Event. When it comes right down to it, what can man do to prevent our home world from being smacked into by a meteorite or an asteroid? The prevailing opinion in Russia is more or less “nothing”, while in the USA and Europe experts (always looking for a grant or two) have a couple of idea’s that border on science fiction, one to including ramming a huge spacecraft (un-manned I hope) into incoming asteroids or using the concentrated rays of the Sun aimed at it, or one method of “last resort” the use nuclear war heads.

The plan to detect these incoming “rocks” is being refocused since one near miss and the Russian incident, causing Dmitry Rogozin the 1st deputy prime minister of the Russian defense industry to comment, “We must create a system to detect objects that threaten Earth and neutralize them.” Looks and sound good but in reality a tall-order whereas for all their nuclear missiles it has become a well known fact that neither the US or Russia could shoot down or destroy a large meteor. On Monday at a conference in Vienna scientists shouted out that it is time for “man” to do more in spotting these incoming objects of possible annihilation to the planets occupants, and in doing so develop an effective shield. The European Union funded “NEO Shield” consortium has a few ideas for a possible shield. “Kinetic Impactor” to fire or launch a huge spacecraft into an asteroid hopefully altering its path. “Gravity Tractor” – park a huge spacecraft near an object and using thrusters to ‘lead’ it away by using weak gravitational force or a ‘cosmic towrope’. “Nuclear Explosion” a last resort option – to breakup the object or deflect it path. The United Nations not to be left out of the event proposed an “action team” for dealing with NEO’s (near-Earth objects), and in formal fashion the creation of many advisory groups dealing with mounting space missions to handle the threats and teams to deal with any impact disaster. More expense under the UN flag. One director of the “Minor Planet Center” at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Timothy Spahr called for “rapid all-sky search capacity” utilizing a spacebased infrared technique to detect objects speculating that it would increase the time of detection that we have today. NASA and ESA, issued a broad warning that “man” should also prepare for impacts that are unavoidable, thereby creating procedures that would facilitate large and wide scale evacuations. ESA’s director for near-Earth object activity, Detlef Koschny said that ESA’s Space Situational Awareness program was capable of possibly determining the impact zones within a few hours notice. He cited one example being an object that was spotted in 2008 some 20-hours before it hit in the Sudan desert with an initial estimated impact zone of 2,000km that was eventually narrowed down to an area in the desert within a few hours. He also commented “that in a similar case (Russia), civil authorities would be able to tell the population in the narrowed-down area to stay away from windows, glass or other structures and stay indoors.”

Other members of the ESA team in Germany plan to set-up a survey to monitor the night-sky using “automated” telescopes capable of spotting objects before they enter the atmosphere. Gary B Hughes at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo are working on a system to harness the power of the Sun and convert it into laser beams that in theory would destroy, evaporate or change the course of asteroids. He supported his statement with “the system (DE-STAR) is not some far-out idea from Star Trek, where most of the components of the system pretty much exist today. Maybe not quite at the scale that we’d need – scaling up would be the challenge – but the basic elements are all there and ready to go.” Which in institution speak translates into “we need a grant”. A University of Hawaii team are in the process of developing a system with small telescopes called “ATLAS” that will have the capability of identifying dangerous asteroid before their final trip to Earth – they are saying their system would give a one-week (168 hours) warning for a 45-meter (149 feet) diameter asteroid (city killer) and three-weeks (504 hours) for one the at 137 meters (450 feet) or a county killer. They maintain (I’m sure tongue in cheek) “that’s enough time to evacuate the area of people, take measures to protect buildings, and other infrastructure, and to be alert to a tsunami generated by ocean impacts”, said John Tory. Can you imagine evacuating lets say New York City or even Seattle in 168 hours, or Hong Kong or Mexico City in 504 hours – and where would you transport the residents of Hawaii? Panic! Russian scientists looking at the big picture shrug their shoulders and say the expense of an early warning system hardly meets the plus $2bil price tag as such events are so “rare”, where the last known meteorite incidents of any magnitude was in Tunguska in 1908. “Spotting is one thing, but preventing an impact is another,” remarked Igo Marinin. “Compared to the number of victims or car accidents or cancer every year,” the 1,200 injured in Friday is all small consequence. In other worlds in Russia some people are simply trusting in fate. Konstantin Taybko a legislator from Chelyabinsk said Monday, “Chelyabinsk may feel safe because nothing like this will happen in the next few hundred years. This is the first town in the history of our civilization to come under space attack, survive this attack, and survive it successfully.” Paul Abell at the Johnson Space Center in examining the data said the meteor in Russia was traveling at 46,000 mph when it encounter our atmosphere and that it

exploded because it was mostly stony, rather than metallic – Tunguska was also stony. It is metallic meteors that usually impact creating craters, such as Windsor Crater in Arizona, as for the impactor that created the crater near Chicxulub, well that was a monster at some 6.2 miles in diameter with an estimated energy of impact at 100 teratons of TNT, an explosion that was 2 million times more than made by man, compare this impact to the energy released by the super-volcano La Garita at 240 gigatons – much smaller than Chicxulub of course an impact of this nature would mean lights out for a majority of life on the planets. It is estimated that there are more than a million near-Earth asteroid smaller than 328 feet in diameter, along with this estimate that one of them would enter our atmosphere at approximately 18,288 mph with an equivalent kinetic energy of 3.5 megatons of TNT, and would produce an air-burst equal to 2.9 megatons, at a rough altitude o 28,000 feet. The Tunguska meteor has been estimated from 3-20 megatons, it is also calculated that asteroids of 150 feet are expected to impact Earth once every 1,200 years. Scientists have played down any suggestions of a link between the event in Russia and the one that missed us by 17,000 miles (2012 DA14) although in our recorded history (or as long as we been able to effectively track such an object) they report it is the closet on any object of this size to smack into us. The space police at NASA and the ESA say they were too preoccupied with DA14, where the wolf at the front door while huffing and puffing, one of the minor wolves sneaked in the back door and tore up the place in the Ural mountains. In the same breath they tell the startled public that a meteorite plowing a hole in your backyard shouldn’t keep you awake at night, it appears to me that around the world such policemen are loading their fear wagon in anticipation of huge wagons full of public money to create a super attentive alarm system….not that they will be do anything but cry wolf, they are nevertheless lined up with their hands out. In other words, “strike when the striking is good,” having a little help from one or two rocks doesn’t hurt. In the USA, with the budget wars just warming up, the leader of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) grabbed a little microphone time and spouted out, “As the world leader in space exploration, America has made great progress for mankind – but our work is not done. We should continue to study, research and explore space to better understand our Universe and better protect our planet.” But when it comes to implementation they weight the balance of either protecting a city of 1 million against developing a weapon that will kill 100-200 at a lick at

a cost of over $500,000 per, or putting up a few more telescopes and looking for a rock. Not a hard decision when you are lining your pockets from those that make those weapons. On the liberal side of the fence, a physicist and former director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory – Representative Rush Hold (D-NJ) sited a meteor that exploded over the Mediterranean in 2002, where if it had exploded over India and Pakistan it might have been misidentified as a nuclear device, “therefore a up-to-date and effective detection system is a matter of National Security. There should be some tens-of-millions in annual funding in order to meet the goal that Congress has set, which is to follow anything of significance in the asteroid/meteor category – we’re not doing anything close to that.” Yet he did follow his remark with “fifty-years-ago, we would have had no way of seeing an asteroid like this morning.” Of course referring to DA14, so there you have it one cowboy from Texas who is worried about cutting the manufacture of $500,000 units to take the life of humans, and one physicist that wants to see humanity survive – and you wonder. Hiding behind all this is the fact that besides the two widely broadcast extraterrestrial rocks other pieces of rock lit up the sky as they zoomed in for contact, one accurately predicted the others somewhat of a surprise. Just so happens that the one that was predicted and tracked with precision, if it had bumped into us would have created onland a crater larger than Monaco. The one over Russia just so happened to have made contact, luckily it exploded and made landfall in pieces – and has the habit in Russia a series of dashboard cameras (that many Russian’s use to deter police corruption) caught the fireball as it streaked across the heavens. Within the noted timeframe of the two widely reported “fireballs”, there was another one noted in Australia on the 18th, one in the UK on the 17th, along with one in Timor of the same date, previous to the 17th one was reported in the Melton, Victoria region of Australia between 11pm and 12am local time on the 16th – whereas the report detailed what looked like 4 clumped together stars running ahead of a well defined tail. It was also on the 16th at 12:45 UTC on the 16th where the one in San Francisco made it appearance. On the 15th in the late afternoon UTC, the citizens of Cuba witnessed the explosion of a fireball in the province of Cienfuegos – and another exploding fireball was reported on the 14th over Japan….all the above captured on video devices. Keep in mind that our planet has over 70% of its surface covered with oceans, imagine the one we never see splashing down in some far off location.

As the population of our Blue Marble increases, today some 7.07 billion souls, the chance of a meteor wiping out a few also increases, whether this is or is not the reason as a whole we’ve experienced an increasing fascination with comets and asteroids. Hollywood in their manner even sent a rogue group of astronauts to detonate one and Morgan hit his knees as the President in hopes that an armada of rockets with nuclear warheads would do in another – in these two flicks the public was made aware of the potential destruction on an incoming rock – increasing somewhat our anxiety pushing some to call for increasing our ability to track these monsters of deep space. Unfortunately over the last few day we learned that some of them now slip beneath our radar (so to speak) and have either put on some pretty impressive light shows or exploded causing some ear aches, tumbling down a few building and breaking boatload of windows. Up until a few months ago there actually was rampant skepticism on whether or not an impact of certain size really had a direct effect on a global mass extinction, this has been laid to rest by an analysis released by the Berkeley Geochronology Center along with similar studies released by Universities in the UK and the Netherlands. Paul Renne (BCG) said, “I wouldn’t say the theory was in trouble, but there have been skeptics and the absolute timing has never quite lined up.” Some had their druthers over whether or not the Chicxulub impact caused the dinosaur extinction some 68 million years ago. If not they say the impact did play a “major role” in extinctions, which more than likely was a huge player in global weather patterns, and due to its size the gravitational attraction between it and Earth must have been enormous, thereby it must have been moving along at well over 46,000mph – phew. Consider the comparison between this one at 6.2 miles wide and the one that smacked into the East Warburton Basin in the NE part of South Australia at some 12 miles wide, now there was an impact. At the end-of-the-day one can only say, “it may not be tomorrow or even a thousand or million years from now, but one bright day our home world will once again be smacked into by a large rock from Space – and just maybe we’ll start all over again.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful