As a person with officially-confirmed-by-Myers-Briggs introvert tendencies, it is always a delight to me when someone new enters the neighborhood, waves hello, and keeps on going.
Especially when the visitor is an asteroid.
2010 TD54 zipped by early Tuesday morning on its way to who knows where? Watchers of extra terrestrial rocks say this one wasn’t big enough to cause damage, even if it had entered Earth’s atmosphere. But the latest thinking about the asteroid threat suggests that these smaller rocks are worthy of our attention; not for a potentially planet killing impact, but rather for the possibility that they might merely penetrate the atmosphere just far enough to cause an aerial explosion, or “airburst”, that could create tree flattening winds and rock melting temperatures.
That would be enough to get my attention.
The experts say this is what happened at Tunguska in Siberia in 1908 with an airburst that devastated an area of about 830 square miles. Hennepin and Ramsey counties together cover 776 square miles, so it’s important to think about asteroids, both big and small. We can learn about the origins of the universe from them, mine them for precious metals and maybe even change their paths to avoid future collisions. In fact, President Obama signed a space bill earlier this week that sets us on course to land astronauts on an asteroid by 2025, under the theory that the best defense is a good offense. Let’s get in the face of Tiny Asteroid before he gets in ours!
Word about 2010 TD54 only surfaced on October 9th. One scientist was quoted by space.com as saying smaller, locally destructive asteroids are more numerous and harder to detect than the big ones, and even if we spotted a reckless intruder two weeks before impact, we’d just have to “take the hit”. Ow!
I wonder how much we would know about where an asteroid would enter the atmosphere and whose terrain might get cooked. Suppose you had a week to get out of the way …
Where would you go?