collision d’une comète sur la terre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On Sunday, 8th June, yet another near-earth object is going to be passing by our fragile planet, this one a massive, newly-found asteroid, appropriately nicknamed The Beast. This gigantic rock – 2014 HQ124 – may be as enormous as the Manchester United football stadium, but astronomers say we need not be worried.
In theory at least, the rock has no chance of hitting Earth, but will all the same zoom past us at around three quarters of a million miles away, which in terms of distances in space is a close thing indeed. It was the NASA sky-mapping space telescope the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer which first spotted this asteroid on April 23rd, since when it has been very closely monitored.
2014 HQ124 is said to be around 1,100 ft wide, or so say the NASA Asteroid Watch program people at the Pasadena, California Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and be moving at 14 km per second – 31,000 mph – at the time it gets closet to us at just before 6 am GMT. Astronomer Bob Berman remarked upon how disconcerting he finds it that such a massive near-earth object was only very recently discovered.
He further commented that this particular asteroid is between10 and 20 times the size of the 2013 Russian asteroid which exploded over Siberia, and that such an explosion of an object on this scale would be immeasurably more powerful, possibly even an extinction level event.
According to NASA data, their scientists estimate that over 90% of mountain-sized near-Earth asteroids – objects wider than 1 km – have in fact already been discovered, but this huge space rock had until now escaped detection. All the same, they claim that there are in fact 15,000 near-Earth asteroids 460 ft or more wide, of which two-thirds remain uncharted, so the need for vigilance in keeping watch on the space around our planet has to be of the utmost importance, because a major strike, in truth, is long overdue.
With less than one in a hundred of the estimated one million near-earth objects that threaten our planet so far discovered which are less than 100 ft in diameter, one can appreciate how serious and constant the threat is. Remember that the rock which exploded over Siberia, with such devastating consequences for local infrastructure, was only the size of a family car. It is not at all difficult to imagine how much worse it would have been had the rock been the size of a large, detached house. The danger is ever present, and the threat all too real, especially as it is not a question of if we will get hammered, but when. #AsteroidThreat? #CloseEncounter? #SpaceDangers?
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