Friday, June 3, 2011

And if a star should fall from the sky...




During my morning news-surf ritual, I was greeted by the story of a
“truck-sized asteroid that ‘zipped’ past Earth last Wednesday."  It got
close.  Closer than the Moon ever does.

While astronomers maintain that this object, 2009 VA, would not have
caused any real damage to us as it likely would have broken up in the
atmosphere, this news has me wondering…just how prepared are we for an
asteroid hit?
Most astronomers assert that it is not a matter of if but when we will
be hit.  We know that it has happened an ample amount of times in the
past.  There is a significant body of evidence that leans towards a
massive asteroid hit wiping out the dinosaurs and forever changing the course of evolution on our world.  
Do you like looking human?  Thank that asteroid.  Otherwise there’s a good chance
you would’ve turned out like this.  Yipes!  It’s David Icke and the
reptoids again!  

And we need not even go back that far in history.
The Tunguska Blast of 1908, a massive explosion that took place in
Siberia, is thought to likely have been the result of an asteroid or
perhaps a comet impact.  The detonation had the equivalent of anywhere
from a five to perhaps a thirty megaton nuclear warhead, resulting in
a wide swath of destruction.  Siberia is of course sparsely populated
so the casualties were relatively light, but what if this chunk of
rock had hit a major city?  What would our history have looked like?

If we see an asteroid headed for us, do we even have the technology to
do anything about it?  I’ve read a number of strategies centered
around “diversion techniques.”  Current thought dictates that
attempting to destroy an oncoming asteroid with nuclear weapons or such would only result in one vast object becoming a buckshot spray of smaller ones, thus resulting in the same amount of destruction only more spread out.  Instead of destroying the space
rock
, one would need only to divert it off course by a few hundred
thousand miles.  Theories on how to do this range from attaching solar
sails to the asteroid’s surface or even actual nuclear engines affixed
to the rock.  Legendary astronomer Carl Sagan came out against the
development of this type of plan.  The same technology meant to divert
an asteroid could also be implemented to bring one towards the Earth.
Given the occasionally genocidal nature of a few political leaders
past and present, Sagan argued that diversion technology should not be
developed unless we detect a direct, oncoming threat.

But that brings up another point.  Are we even capable of detecting an
approaching object in enough time?  An asteroid similar in size to 2009 VA came close to Earth in November of 2009.  It was detected
about fifteen hours before the approach.  There is currently a debate
over just how affective our means are of detecting Near Earth Objects
(NEO).  An unavoidable factor in all of this is money.  It takes a
considerable budget to create and maintain an asteroid defense and our
political leaders would hard pressed to sell this to a populace in
need of jobs and healthcare.  Sure, the big picture is one that
threatens the entire human race, but most people are concerned only
with their tunnel vision versions of reality…as I have lamented many a
time.

Politics.  That leads me to consider an equally disastrous scenario.
Meteors and asteroids hit with the force of nuclear weapons.  Imagine
if a hitherto undetected NEO hit a populated area and caused localized
devastation on a Tunguska scale.  Yes, I know that the ash cloud from
Tunguska caused the “year without a summer” for much of the world and
that is not exactly “localized,” but bear with me for a moment.  If
the object were missed by our current detection technology, what else
could a government assume the blast to be other than nuclear?  If that
nation is nuclear capable, it would doubtless strike back with
everything in its arsenal against whomever it was they thought they
were at war with.  Or wanted to be at war with.  Shades of W.  Were
this unfortunate event to occur within the United States, you can bet
money that the Republican leadership would be quick to label it a
terrorist attack from Muslim extremists.  There would be strong
pressure on whomever is President to “counter-nuke” Iran, Syria, or
really whoever would be most advantageous.  Even if it were concretely determined that it was a meteor that caused the ruin, who would believe it?  And what would it matter?  War would already be underway.

I really need to stop thinking about these sorts of things.  They
creep into my head before sleep or during my commute.  
Maybe I should think about something rosier…like the New Madrid Fault.

By the way, I'm having troubles lately with formatting in Blogger.  Apologies for any difficulty in reading.


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