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NEW: Asteroid Heading Toward Earth Feb 15—Time To Panic?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 

Here it comes! Asteroid DA14 is heading right toward Earth and will pass close by. Is there cause for alarm?

A 150-foot-wide asteroid is on its way toward Earth and will pass very close by us on Feburary 15th. Is it time to panic? Duck and cover? GoLocal's resident astronomer David Huestis has what you need to know.

When I was in grade school (early sixties) the phrase used for the title of this article instilled fear into everyone. If the Civil Defense sirens went off you’d have to duck under your desk and cover your head to protect yourself from a nuclear blast. I can’t believe that was the plan those in charge of such things came up with. It could only have been an attempt to lull folks into a false sense of security and prevent panic. How could you panic when, if the unthinkable did happen, and you and everything around for tens of miles were vaporized into 1027 atoms?

It seems to me the only time science makes the headlines is when there is an opportunity to frighten the populace about an event that really posses no threat to humanity. Remember all the astronomical scenarios proposed to fulfill the alleged Mayan Doomsday prophecies?

Asteroid DA14

Today it is the approach of a 150-foot wide asteroid (2012 DA14) that will pass between the Earth and some of our man-made orbiting satellites on February 15. It will come very close to us, approximately about 17,000 miles or so.

However, we are in no danger. Astronomers have very good orbital numbers on this object and there is no chance it will impact the Earth. And suppose their information did show it would hit us? What could we do? Not much. While the area of impact could most likely be pinpointed with some accuracy, imagine the panic that would cause. There would be no way to avert this type of disaster using today’s technology.

What happens when an asteroid strikes the Earth

While an object this size impacting the Earth could ruin your whole day if you were in the “vicinity,” it would not be an extinction event like the impactor that led to the demise of the dinosaurs.

The object that created Meteor Crater in Arizona was also about 150-feet wide and it created a crater about three-quarters of a mile in diameter and about 600 feet deep. The resulting blast would have been felt over a wide area, but the rest of Arizona and the United States remained intact.

I’m thankful astronomers are searching the skies for these potential interlopers, but I hope if the day arrives when they discover an asteroid or comet on a collision course with the Earth, emergency management personnel don’t suggest “duck and cover.”

If they do, I’ll definitely be outside observing what will be an once-in-a-lifetime sky show.

 

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