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Space News

Small Asteroid On Collision Course With Earth 397

Posted by kdawson
from the big-kaboom dept.
musatov writes "There's talk on The Minor Planet Mailing List about a small asteroid approaching Earth with a 99.8% probability of colliding. The entrance to the Earth's atmosphere will take place October 7 at 0246 UTC (2:35 after this story goes live) over northern Sudan, releasing the energy of about a kiloton of TNT. The asteroid is assumed to be 3-4 meters in size; it is expected to burn up completely in the atmosphere, causing no harm. As a powerful bolide, it may put on quite a show in the sky. For those advanced enough in astronomy to observe, check the MPEC 2008-T50 and MPEC 2008-T64 circulars. NASA's JPL Small Body Database has a 3D orbit view. The story has been already picked up by CNN and NASA."
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Small Asteroid On Collision Course With Earth

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  • I thought bodies this small were usually referred to as meteors. What's the difference?

  • by log0n (18224)

    (assuming the summary is correct and it will likely burn up)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by philspear (1142299)

      More specifically if it burns away completely BEFORE hitting the earth. If it burns up in the resulting explosion... :-(

      One thing I've wondered, those small asteroids that hit the earth, say that land and are about the size of my fist, did those burn down to that size from a bigger size, or are there trajectories that it could land mostly without burning up. Like if it goes in at a really steep angle, could a rock the size of a basketball before it enters be about the size of a basketball when it lands, o

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
      • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:27PM (#25280273)

        One thing I've wondered, those small asteroids that hit the earth, say that land and are about the size of my fist, did those burn down to that size from a bigger size, or are there trajectories that it could land mostly without burning up. Like if it goes in at a really steep angle, could a rock the size of a basketball before it enters be about the size of a basketball when it lands, or is that pretty much impossible?

        Yes they "burned down". Yes, there are trajectories that let things land without burning up. But they make for lousy shows, since it requires the rock to skim the outer atmosphere just deep enough to slow below escape velocity, and then slowly (over a period of months or years) lose enough more energy that they reenter permanently. If that happens, and if they're metallic, and if they're really extremely spherical (no hot spots other than the obvious one - out front), then maybe they can make it to the ground substantially intact. Odds - well, literally astronomical.

    • by supernova_hq (1014429) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:57PM (#25280515)
      Oh crap, the fate of the earth depends on the accuracy of a slashdot summary?!?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:15PM (#25279303)

    Small asteroids that burn up in the upper atmosphere are far from uncommon. Why is this suddenly notable?

    • I think this one is actually observable, or at least the summery makes it seem that way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Peter Cooper (660482)

      Supposedly it's the first time that an asteroid / meteor has been accurately (well, we'll see on that front!) predicted to enter the atmosphere at a specific time and location.

    • This is the first time ever an object has been identified to be on collision course with the earth and which has gone on to actually hit us.

      Also, given the small size of the objetc I am amazed they pulled it off.

      There was a suggestion made that this might be a booster from a mars probe because its orbit does take it close to mars, Another possibility is that it is a fragment of mars.
  • Let the jokes about the end of the world begin...
  • maybe the superstitious nutjobs in northern sudan take it as a godly sign that they should stop genociding southern sudan

    the acehnese independence drive in indonesia pretty much died off after the 2004 tsumani

    we talk about comets and eclipses having an impact in geopolitics in ancient history

    well, it still goes on today

  • by owlnation (858981) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:20PM (#25279347)
    Bankers everywhere rejoice!
    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      Well, you gotta' give it to 'em. They played the numbers saying, "what's the worst thing that could possibly happen?"

      Luckily we'll all be wiped out before that question is answered.
  • ... or you'll go blind and the next thing you know, you'll being devoured by a giant plant.

    Instead, watch it through a pinhole cut into some cardboard.
  • My prediction is that because it's over an impoverished third-world country, no one will care much, aside from astronomers and a small number (relative to world population) of other smarter people who know perfectly well that it could have just as easily been over Los Angeles or New York City. Not that this particular incident is important as anything but yet another warning that space objects of unpredictable size can suddenly strike Earth, as has happened frequently in geological time for billions of year

    • Um, so what? Do you think that one kiloton exploding high up in the atmosphere over New York or Los Angeles would do anything other than provide an unusual light show for the inhabitants? Think again.

  • by blue l0g1c (1007517) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:27PM (#25279427)
    and it wants revenge.
  • by Bragador (1036480) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:28PM (#25279443)

    Small Asteroid Predicted to Cause Brilliant Fireball over Northern Sudan [nasa.gov]

    A very small, few-meter sized asteroid, designated 2008 TC3, was found Monday morning by the Catalina Sky Survey from their observatory near Tucson Arizona. Preliminary orbital computations by the Minor Planet Center suggested an atmospheric entry of this object within a day of discovery. JPL confirmed that an atmospheric impact will very likely occur during early morning twilight over northern Sudan, north-eastern Africa, at 2:46 UT Tuesday morning. The fireball, which could be brilliant, will travel west to east (from azimuth = 281 degrees) at a relative atmospheric impact velocity of 12.8 km/s and arrive at a very low angle (19 degrees) to the local horizon. It is very unlikely that any sizable fragments will survive passage through the Earth's atmosphere.

    Objects of this size would be expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere every few months on average but this is the first time such an event has been predicted ahead of time.

    • by fm6 (162816) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:46PM (#25279549) Homepage Journal

      Objects of this size would be expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere every few months on average but this is the first time such an event has been predicted ahead of time.

      This detail got left out of the story summary, making this sound like a bigger deal than it actually is. This is a routine, mundane event — only the prediction is newsworthy.

      • by Jonathan McDowell (515872) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:29PM (#25279869) Homepage

        This detail got left out of the story summary, making this sound like a bigger deal than it actually is. This is a routine, mundane event — only the prediction is newsworthy.

        What this really means is that the new surveys are looking at more of the sky more frequently and deeper (seeing fainter objects), so now we are starting to catch things hitting the Earth that would have been missed in the past.

        I wouldn't say this is a mundane event though, this is going to be bigger than the majority of fireballs that get seen. Yes, every few months, but most are over uninhabited areas and don't get seen. And they are not tracked in advance - so we'll get to see how big a fireball you get for a body whose size we have a rough idea of (a few meters across).

        For technical updates, see
        http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/mpec/RecentMPECs.html

  • by gooman (709147) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:30PM (#25279449) Journal

    Since it is such a small asteroid we can save some money. We don't need to send an all-star cast to blow it up, we only need to send one celebrity.
    I suggest Bruce Willis, since we can save even more money not having to worry about the return trip.

  • Scary... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZipprHead (106133) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:33PM (#25279469) Homepage

    This is scary to me, not so much that a small asteroid is going to burn up and make a light show, but news of it comes out 24 hours before hand.

    Would a body 10,20,100 or 1000 times the size be detected 24 hours before hitting us? Hell... 72 Hours?

  • by DeadDecoy (877617) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:36PM (#25279483)
    Wouldn't this be an ideal opportunity to test out the theory of using a satellite's gravity to tow an asteroid away? Well, it's too late now, but I'm sure the research would be useful if we ever wanted to have a greater chance of avoiding potential disasters [wikipedia.org].
    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday October 06, 2008 @07:54PM (#25279617)
      Firstly the mass of a satellite would not generate enough of a gravity well to nudge any object off a crash course with the earth. Secondly, as the object in question will be travelling at around 12.8km/s (That's just under 8 miles per second if you are American). The sort of gravity needed to change that trajectory considerably would likely cause much much more problems than this little lump of rock could ever cause.
    • by mbone (558574)

      No. The tractor idea (it's not a beam, for pete's sake) would take months to test. We have about... 1 hour.

  • The little one is followed by a great big one. Panic!

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:02PM (#25279679) Homepage

    a small asteroid approaching Earth with a 99.8% probability of colliding

    O-M-G We're all going to die! It's the end of the world! Run! Agh, forget that, you'll just die tired! I'm freaking out! I'm freaking out!

    The asteroid is assumed to be 3-4 meters in size...

    This has been a test of the emergency end of the world system. Has this been the actual end of the world you would have been given explicit instructions to bend over and kiss your ass good bye.

    This concludes this test of the emergency end of the world system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by schmidt349 (690948)

      I thought that if the world was going to end we were meant to lie down or put a paper bag over our head or something. That's what they told us in the Army...

  • Is one hour from now.

    Any slashdotters in Sudan ?

  • Since there is great uncertainty in the mass of this object (albedo ? density ? who knows!) is anyone interested in a pool for the crater size ? I say that there will be one and my bet is for 3 meters.

  • Too bad we didn't see this thing coming earlier. With a year's warning, it would be great practice to see if we could get some sort of vehicle close enough to destroy it. If we could find a way to target this thing, we could rest assured that we know how to target a larger object that could actually do damage. It would have been great target practice; big enough to track and try to hit but small enough that it doesn't matter if we miss.

  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:14PM (#25280167) Journal

    5% of the meteors are iron. Iron is both denser and darker than the far more common stony meteor which means if the asteroid is made of iron, it'll be bigger than expected because the size estimates are based on the amount of light the asteroid is reflecting. If it's iron, its higher density, combined with its larger size, will improve the odds that some remnants will make earth fall.

    If it makes earth fall it'll be by far, the most valuable meteorite ever since it's the first asteroid whose arrival was predicted. It'll literally be money from Heaven for whomever finds a piece.

  • by robbak (775424) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:33PM (#25280323) Homepage

    Update - 6:45 PM PDT (1 hour prior to atmospheric entry)

    Since its discovery barely a day ago, 2008 TC3 has been observed extensively by astronomers around the world, and as a result, our orbit predictions have become very precise. We estimate that this object will enter the Earth's atmosphere at around 2:45:28 UTC and reach maximum deceleration at around 2:45:54 UTC. These times are uncertain by +/- 15 seconds or so. The time at which any fragments might reach the ground depends a great deal on the physical properties of the object, but should be around 2:46:20 UTC +/- 40 seconds.

    T-750 and counting

  • by Guppy (12314) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:45PM (#25293787)

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news160.html [nasa.gov]

    Confirmation has been received that the asteroid impact fireball occurred at the predicted time and place. The energy recorded was estimated to be 0.9 to 1.0 kT of TNT and the time of detection was 02:45:45 on October 7 (Greenwich Standard Time). More details on this detection will be forthcoming. An additional confirmation was apparently reported by a KLM airliner (see: (http://www.spaceweather.com [spaceweather.com]). As reported by Peter Brown (University of Western Ontario, Canada), a preliminary examination of infrasound stations nearest to the predicted impact point shows that at least one station recorded the event. These measurements are consistent with the predicted time and place of the atmospheric impact and indicate an estimated energy of 1.1 - 2.1 kT of TNT.

    Just in case anyone's still checking all the way down here...

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