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Earth Space Science

Fifty Meter Asteroid Might Hit Earth In 2098 295

eldavojohn writes "The Bad Astronomer brings word of an asteroid discovered with a tiny chance of hitting Earth. While it's only 50 meters wide, it could have the impact of a 20 megaton bomb. It's still twenty million miles away so if it hits us, it won't happen until 2098. The real story here is how a remarkable telescope, dubbed Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, that went operational in May found its first potential target in our growing impact alert system for Earth."
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Fifty Meter Asteroid Might Hit Earth In 2098

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    don't care.. sorry..

  • Key Words: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rip Dick ( 1207150 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:18PM (#33725788)
    "...might... ...tiny chance... ...could... ...if..."
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:31PM (#33726056)
      But if it does hit, it is nearly certain that most of the people alive now won't be alive after the impact. Oh the humanity!
    • Absolutely right, emphasis on the tiny chance. Where are my mod points...

      • Wow, 20 megatons, that sounds bad. If medicine advances to the point where I can live well past 120 years old (and I mean live, like really live, not an existence consumed by mostly writhing around in agony), and I happen to live where this thing might hit, by then I'm afraid I'll be too set in my ways to want to move out of the armageddon zone.

        If this thing were going to hit where I live today I'd start a new life in a new city like that...by comparison I'm young, I'll roll with the punches. But I'm going

  • When my Mayan calendar runs out in just a few short months?

    "Bomb the rubble", Mr. Asteroid!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Let's see,

      Take the year 2098... subtract the left wing anti-Christ(43)... subtract the right wing anti-Christ(44)... carry the asteroid(1)...

      2012!!! THE MAYANS WERE RIGHT!!!!
    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      Much the same way the Mayans cant be right because my Far Side calendar ends mid Jan 2011.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:30PM (#33726014) Homepage Journal

      I'm eligible for retirement in 2012, so the world as I know it will surely end. Don't know about the rest of you guys, though. More importantley...

      Our calendar ends on Dec 31st of THIS YEAR! WE'RE ALL DOOMED!

  • I mean, optimism at it's finest.

    The good news here... let me correct myself: the great news here is that Pan-STARRS found this thing at all! From that distance, an object this small is really hard to see, and no other asteroid survey could've found it. That means that as time goes on, Pan-STARRS will find lots and lots of threatening objects.

    (emphasis mine)

    He's going to be a lot of fun at parties towards the end of 2012 ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      How you measure the unknown? It IS optimist, saying that we now finally have tools to start discovering this kind of threats. Anyway, that we are getting aware that things could get close don't mean that anything will hit us (in last century nothing similar to that size, so odds should be pretty low).
  • Thankfully most of us will be dead by then.

  • by jdgeorge ( 18767 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:19PM (#33725810)

    First, let's figure out what this "Nature" is and what it wants. Then, let's stop it in its tracks!

  • by Manos_Of_Fate ( 1092793 ) <link226@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:20PM (#33725824)
    We'd better freeze Bruce Willis, just to be sure.
  • Now about that asteroid, sounds like a problem! Quite a pickle.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:21PM (#33725836)
    If we launch Rosie O'Donnell into orbit now, her gravitational pull will divert it away! Yay!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yeah, but think about all the flooding from the tidal changes!
      • How the hell do we launch something that big, I didn't think our rockets had that kind of lift capacity?

        • How the hell do we launch something that big, I didn't think our rockets had that kind of lift capacity?

          Much like African Swallows, you need a couple rockets and a string...
  • BA:

    An impact by something like that is about the same as exploding a 20 megaton bomb.

    So yeah, bad.

    Wiki [wikipedia.org]:

    The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the "Tsar Bomba" of the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya on October 30, 1961, with an estimated yield of around 50 megatons.

    So this impact would be 40% of the Soviet test. How badly did the Soviet test harm the Earth?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, for one thing they never tested in the middle of a heavily populated area, if the stone should choose to fall in a city and not the ocean. A bigger concern would be if said explosion happened in a nation with a paranoid dictator who lets the nukes fly because he thinks he's under attack, cascading into everyone following suit.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )

        3% of the Earth's surface is urban area, so chances are it won't hit a heavily populated area.

        • Not only that, it can only hit half of the earth at any given point, so it goes down to a ~1.5% chance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Not much. Kind of a bummer if the asteroid isn't nice enough to land in an uninhabited part of Siberia though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cowscows ( 103644 )

      It wouldn't be an extinction level event or anything like that, but it would almost certainly ruin the day of anyone nearby where it did hit. And even if we could get advanced warning of where it would hit and evacuate all the people, if it heads towards a city, that's a lot of property/infrastructure/housing that will be obliterated. So not necessarily catastrophic, but probably not particularly great either.

      Although if we figured out that it was going to hit somewhere basically unpopulated and un-utilized

    • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:37PM (#33726144) Homepage

      That test was an air burst. In any case a nuclear weapon delivers its energy as heat while a meteorite delivers its as kinetic energy so the effects are not going to be the same even when the energy is.

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        Heat is kinetic energy.

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        Methinks a lot of that meteorite's kinetic energy will be tranformed into heat almost instantly upon impact, vaporizing a lot of stuff. It's the blast -- the heat-induced expansion of atmosphere and vaporized material that will create most damage methinks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

      Depends on where it hits. A single 50 megaton nuclear bomb doesn't really do much to the earth, long term. Obviously, the Soviet bomb hasn't had any lasting environmental impacts worldwide. However, they exploded that bomb near the Arctic Circle in an unpopulated, desolate place. If it had been in the middle of Hawaii, that probably wouldn't be much of a vacation spot now.

      A 20Mt asteroid hitting in the middle of the ocean would be a big and interesting event, but nothing to be too concerned about. Howe

  • WOLF WOLF WOLF (Score:2, Interesting)

    by peter303 ( 12292 )
    If the astronomers issue press releases like this every month, what happens when an asteroid really comes close?
    • It's not really their fault, this isn't "Oh no, we're all going to die!" (that was, of course how the media sold it to their readers), the real press release was "Hurray, our new telescope works!".

    • By the time we see it, it's already too late. Press releases like this help us know the danger so we put some $$$ into finding these things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Well, if it's a comet, it might be called Wolf-Biederman ...

    • Who really cares what the man on the street thinks? They have no real power to do anything about this one way or another.

      Now, for the people who have the understanding of this kind of thing they know how to ready these reports without getting their panties in a bunch. They're the people who matter. They're the ones who are going to determine what should be done when. Or do you think we should not report on any information if it doesn't involve the mass population? In that case most news websites can be boi
    • And if they don't, what will people like you say to the astronomers when an asteroid really comes close?

      Oh, right. You'll bitch they didn't tell anyone.

  • Well finally some good news after all this doom and gloom lately.

    Hope it hits something that needs to be hit and solves some sort of a problem of that time.

  • Who wants to bet we won't do anything about it until late 2097? Probably be a big issue in the 2096 elections and then congress will be paralyzed by partisan divisions for the first half of 2097. Only the rapidly approaching 2098 mid-terms will force them to focus on the, also rapidly approaching, killer asteroid.
  • Bellus is approaching!

  • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:41PM (#33726206) Homepage

    From the summary:

    " While it's only 50 meters wide, it could have the impact of a 20 megaton bomb."

    Which sounds impressive - until you realize just how empty the Earth really is. Across probably 80% of the Earth, a 20 meg explosion will produce few (if any) casualties. Doubly so since that size range is likely to breakup and deposit most of it's energy in the upper atmosphere.
    Phil, you've done lots of good stuff, but you're just reaching for the hits and ad impressions with this one.

    • I don't know... I always thought it was Phil's job to keep people up to date on this kind of thing. You know... "Bad Astronomy", Astronomy news. See any connection to the theme here?

      Certainly much better than the number of political articles that make the front page here who's only real purpose is to start flame wars.
  • Big Deal? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tyler Durden ( 136036 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:41PM (#33726208)
    Twenty megaton blast? Meh. We've seen worse [wikipedia.org].

    Of course, I'm sure where it strikes will make a bit of difference.
  • by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @02:43PM (#33726238)
    Today countries all over the world cling to ethnic and religious differences as primary societal foundations. As long as that is true we will have never ending war. This asteroid is a gift of a single unifying foundation for all of humankind to unite around. Working together to deflect this asteroid will diminish those cherished divisions along ethnic and religious lines. Once we are done, the young generations will see no reason to go back to hating each other.
    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:07PM (#33726628) Homepage
      Not fair smoking something that good and gloating about it.
      • It's paraphrased from the movie or comic "Watchmen" In the movie the rally point was Dr. Manhattan which actually made more sense then the original comic being some new random alien squid thing.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:28PM (#33727850) Journal
      It always intrigues me when people say we will have never-ending war. Have you actually looked at the statistics to see what has happened to war in the past three decades, or the past century? The number of wars has dropped dramatically and consistently. I know it is hard sometimes for a person from the US to see this, since it feels like we've become more warlike since the 90s, but if you actually look at the numbers that's more of an illusion.

      As the remaining fighters realize they have more to gain from trade than from fighting, then wars will continue to cease.
  • telescoped? (Score:2, Funny)

    by prograde ( 1425683 )
    telescoped [tel-uh-skohp-dee] noun, a process that runs in the background waiting for incoming photons.
    Usage: "here is how a remarkable telescoped ... found its first potential target."
  • If I'm still alive then, I'll head to the expected impact site. Best funeral pyre ever!

  • I mean, someday. But probably not from this. Most of us will be dead from something else long before.

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:20PM (#33726836) Homepage

    They JUST found this thing. The amount of data available to determine it's orbit isn't enough to know exactly where it is going. HOWEVER when they dig up some old sky photos they will find earlier positions of this thing. The more earlier data points the better they will be able to predict it's path. Usually this means that the odds of an Earth impact will go down. It's happened before with other newly discovered objects.

  • I still have 88 years to invent warp drive :)

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @03:41PM (#33727162)

    The /. summary reads " It's still twenty million miles away so if it hits us, it won't happen until 2098". This statement seems to imply that because it is 20 million miles away it will take 88 years to get here. That implies a very poor understanding of basic math and science skills. 20 million miles is just not that much in terms of astronomy. The earth is about 93 million miles from the sun, and covers a distance of over 300 million miles each year as it falls around the sun. 20 million miles would not take this rock 88 years to reach us, the real issue is that its orbit and the earth's orbit don't intersect until 2098. Until then the rock may be closer or farther than 20 million miles from us, the 20 million is just a distance it was away from us at one time.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
      Yeah, that one bothered me, too. I wasn't really sure from the summary if it meant it was only traveling .25 million miles per year (unlikely, but implied) or just that 98 was when the orbits would intersect (more likely, but not as worded).
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @05:02PM (#33728318) Homepage Journal

    I was thinking recently that we were lucky that most of the ecosphere-killing events in our history were astoundingly long ago and that our local space should be pretty clear by now. And then I realized that the dinosaur extinction event that happened 65 million years ago took place when the Earth was about 98.6% as old as it is now. If the Earth was now a day old, the dinosaurs were wiped out at 11:40PM. Suddenly those past catastrophes seemed not as comfortingly ancient.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham