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Earth NASA Space Science

WISE Discovers 95 New Near-Earth Asteroids 112

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-sure-you-want-to-know? dept.
astroengine writes "NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up 25,000 new asteroid discoveries, 95 of which are near-Earth objects (NEOs). This mission is as fascinating as it is frightening. Capable of spotting any cosmic object glowing in infrared wavelengths, WISE has become an expert asteroid hunter, seeing these interplanetary vagabonds, some of which get uncomfortably close to our planet."
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WISE Discovers 95 New Near-Earth Asteroids

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2010 @10:35PM (#32940780)

    I'd rather know it's my last chance to see people than not get that chance.

    Also, first?

    • by ushering05401 (1086795) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @11:03PM (#32940872) Journal

      So Cletus turns to his friend Clem and says:

      "Clem, if there was an asteroid and it was going to absolutely pulverize the Earth; by which I mean it will smash the Earth to frickin smithereens; and you have got only thirty minutes left to your god blessed life what in the world would you do with yourself?"

      Clem chews his chaw a minute, spits, and retorts: "Well Cletus, I suppose I'd fuck the living hell out of the first thing that moved. How 'bout you good friend?"

      Cletus mulls the problem and, in solemn tone replies: "Well Clem, I'd prolly just stand perfectly still."

  • It's WISE systems Astetoids 95's!

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @10:54PM (#32940828) Homepage
    The discovery of additional Near Earth Asteroids isn't scary at all. We knew these objects almost certainly had to be there. We didn't know where exactly they were. Now we can go and track their orbits and if anyone gets close to being a threat maybe have some small chance at dealing with it or preparing for the really bad results if we can't deal with it. This is a good thing. Not searching for these objects would just be like trying to deal with a big angry predator by sticking your head in the ground and hoping it goes away.
    • by neo8750 (566137)

      Not searching for these objects would just be like trying to deal with a big angry predator by sticking your head in the ground and hoping it goes away.

      Ah yes the ostrich defense!

      But the GP has a good point. Just cause we can now see them doesn't mean they weren't there before we could see them.

      • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @07:30AM (#32942028)

        Nope according to quantum theory they didn't exist before because we couldn't measure them. Or was that intelligent design? I always get the two confused. Both require the belief that in the beginning there was nothing and then it exploded.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Urkki (668283)

          Nope according to quantum theory they didn't exist before because we couldn't measure them. Or was that intelligent design? I always get the two confused. Both require the belief that in the beginning there was nothing and then it exploded.

          Ah, but in quantum mechanics, once we observe something ("cause the the wave function to collapse into a determined state", to be technical), we retroactively determine it's existence at least as far back from the observation as uncertainty principle allows us to theoretically calculate.

          So even if an asteroid doesn't exist now, if we observe it as a fiery ball hurtling across the sky and getting rapidly bigger, it's existence will get retroactively established back through the history of the universe.

          The on

    • by tpstigers (1075021) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @11:42PM (#32940974)

      Now we can go and track their orbits and if anyone gets close to being a threat maybe have some small chance at dealing with it or preparing for the really bad results if we can't deal with it.

      Exactly. Call Bruce Willis.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mysidia (191772)

      However, in some cases, sticking your entire body in the hole might help, if the hole is deep enough, and the predator is sufficiently large and unable to reach into the hole.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        if ... the predator is sufficiently large and unable to reach into the hole

        Unless you can close the entry to the hole! As a matter of fact, since a hole is just a space enclosed by sufficiently strong barrier, we could just build over-surface holes!

        • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:53AM (#32942404) Journal

          Perhaps we could save precious strong barrier material by shaping it into closely spaced bars and put a lock on the over-surface hole.

          We could even give the predator (who we will refer to by the arbitrary term "the man") the key and hope it one day lets us out if we (hereafter referred to as citizens) please it. We might call this "good behavior."

          Nah... never catch on.

      • by bhiestand (157373)

        However, in some cases, sticking your entire body in the hole might help, if the hole is deep enough, and the predator is sufficiently large and unable to reach into the hole.

        I tried that... she broke up with me :(

    • Agreed. It's more scary to know there is something out there that can finish us all than to know exactly what it is out there that can finish us all.

      Monsters that you cannot see are more scary than the scariest monster that you can see.

  • Certainly it's plausible that the accumulated mass of the these objects is of such huge proportion that (depending on composition) their raw materials would make them valuable enough to warrant actually collecting, no? To say nothing of the possible safety concerns of just leaving them there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by arkane1234 (457605)

      Once we figure out a way to stop a massive hunk of matter hurdling through space, then we can get our robotic strip mining machines out to latch on and tear it apart.
      Probably in another year or two.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Assuming you want the minerals on earth at most you'd just want to slow it down to manageable speeds, not stop it (relatively). No point spending extra energy to slow it down only to spend energy to speed up the extracted stuff again.
    • by xorm (847210)
      From what we know about asteroids, they seem to be composed mostly of things like iron, nickel and silica, none of which are particularly rare or hard to extract here on Earth. Preventing an impact event is one thing, but it's doubtful that there's much money in harvesting asteroids.
      • by Urkki (668283)

        From what we know about asteroids, they seem to be composed mostly of things like iron, nickel and silica, none of which are particularly rare or hard to extract here on Earth. Preventing an impact event is one thing, but it's doubtful that there's much money in harvesting asteroids.

        Material of Earth has differentiated, meaning we've got more heavy stuff in the core, and more light stuff on the surface. So it's plausible to think that some asteroids (depending on where, when and how they were formed in the first place) would have very high concentrations of stuff like uranium, gold, platinum group metals...

      • So, perhaps it's 80% iron, 18% nickel, 1%oxygen, 0.25%platinum group metals, 0.05% rare earths, 0.7% "other". That meets your definition. Can you think of any use for the iron, nickel and oxygen in Earth orbit? Can you think of any use for the platinum groups and rare earths? Didn't think so. So, it's all MINE! Mwahahaha...
  • Hey Slashdot! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @11:10PM (#32940892)
    Try to make yourself useful and see if you can score an interview with Amy Mainzer, one of the people running this project. She's a brainy babe.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @04:38AM (#32941602) Homepage

      Try to make yourself useful and see if you can score an interview with Amy Mainzer, one of the people running this project. She's a brainy babe.

      What? An interview? Come on now, this is Slashdot - the vast majority of users don't even read the friggin' summary. Much less the article. Much less actually going OUTSIDE and talking to ANOTHER PERSON of the OPPOSITE SEX.

      My God man, think about what you're saying.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by shaitand (626655)

        Perhaps we could just forward on the most highly moderated questions in Slashdot tradition. For instance, I believe an AC above posed an interesting query regarding the size of her hooters...

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Much less actually going OUTSIDE and talking to ANOTHER PERSON of the OPPOSITE SEX.

        Thanks a LOT, man. I'm weird enough just being a nerd, but now I'm even weird for a nerd. =(

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      Totally agree. Here's a sample [youtube.com].
  • The next step (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Leo_07 (1711944)
    I think the next question is to ask ourselves how we are going to deal with these near-Earth asteroids. We should be ready for a rare but possible asteroid crash so that we don't have a second oil-spill-like incident.
    • Re:The next step (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @11:46PM (#32940984) Homepage Journal

      For the vast majority of impacts it will be enough to evacuate the impact site. For this there are two basic problems:

      1. Exactly where and when will the impact occur? To answer this we need really accurate tracking. Transponders on the impactor would help a lot.
      2. How do we safely evacuate the target area? What do we do if the target is Calcutta? Move the population to Afghanistan? I bet that will go down well. This is a political problem which can only partly address right now. Improvements are needed.
      • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        The problem with that analysis is that the effort required to tag an asteroid with a transponder isn't much different than the effort required to move an asteroid using something like a gravity tractor -- so long as its a relatively small asteroid. But if its not a relatively small one, then it will have global impact and will require a substantial mitigation effort anyway.

        Another nasty political problem is what happens when we find out its going to hit the US, manage to change the trajectory about half an

        • My gut feeling is that we are not going to be able to shift anything over 100 metres diameter, and that global impact affects start at about 1000 metres diameter. Between those two you still have a large population of asteroids. Objects smaller than 100 metres might barely make it to the surface anyway.

          What might help on the tracking side is a multilateration system along the lines of GPS, but covering the inner solar system. You could navigate without it but you are working by inference a lot of the time.

          • Re:The next step (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @02:06AM (#32941306)

            Its pretty easy to move something bigger, given enough time. Potential mitigation of Apophis, among other asteroids, has been extensively studied. Note that its approximately 270 meters and 2.7e10 kg, enough to cause significant regional destruction, wiping out a continent.

            As an example case study that I worked on, a 500 kg spacecraft hovering a few hundred meters away from an asteroid for a year is enough to move it 10s of Earth radii. Note that you'd need similar behavior to get a good track. The key is to make the move early. This particular plan was intended to eliminate the threat of a 2036 impact, which is well known to correspond with a 600-meter wide 'keyhole' during the 2029 approach. By moving the asteroid a few meters forward or backwards in 2022, the threat is mitigated -- you move it by kilometers and in 2029, and 10s of Earth radii in 2036.

            Closed orbits over many revolutions are incredibly sensitive to very small changes, and close flybys, which are likely for a potential threat, increase the sensitivity by orders of magnitude. The key ingredients are time, tracking, and high fidelity trajectory models.

        • by shaitand (626655)

          As long as we are all clear that we should evacuate, me, then women (preferably in order of appearance) and progressively younger females first. After that start with the male children (if they count age in years they are little old) followed by decrepit old men with nasty rotting diseases.

          Healthy young men (aside from myself) in or near fertile age should be evacuated last. They're tough, they have a better chance of surviving the impact.

        • Another nasty political problem is what happens when we find out its going to hit the US, manage to change the trajectory about half an Earth diameter, and it magically ends up heading for Russia instead

          History is written by the victors.

      • How do we safely evacuate the target area?

        Keep in mind that it is most likely that the target area will be the ocean--since oceans cover 71% of the Earth. Of the remaining 29%, 90% of the world's population lives in 3% of that 29%. So that works out to a less than 1% chance of it hitting a heavily populated area.

        Of course, if it hits the ocean, we might have to deal with Tsunamis and things like that which will affect a whole bunch of people. So it would be more like "how do you evacuate the west coast of North America?"

        • by Acron (1253166)
          Whoops, forgot to log in... Above a certain side it really doesn't matter where it hits, if it throws enough stuff back up into the atmosphere you get the nuclear winter effect and most of humanity dies of starvation. Not sure who much difference it hitting an ocean makes as that would probably put a ton of water vapor up there, but I suspect water might do the opposite, i.e. create a hothouse effect which would be bad in a different way (greatly elevated temperatures = drought and plants dying because to
          • I reckon the vast majority of impacts will be similar to Tunguska, they will hit like a large nuke, but the effects will be survivable ~100km away, not a problem at ~1000km easy to miss at 10000km. The last impact like this was in 1908 and recent estimates suggest we might only get one every 1000 years.

        • by shaitand (626655)

          "So that works out to a less than 1% chance of it hitting a heavily populated area."

          That would depend on the size of the asteroid an asteroid that will be 1/3 the size of the earth at impact has a better than 1% chance of hitting someone.

          • There aren't any asteroids 1/3rd the size of the Earth. The really big ones are in well understood orbits. All the impacts of that scale happened 4 billion years ago.

      • by shaitand (626655)

        The solution is to alter the course of the earth so the asteroid impacts Afghanistan instead.

        Why wait for an asteroid when we can start testing methods of moving the earth today.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        What do we do if the target is Calcutta

        If you're Pakistani you'd probably throw a party, not let the Indians in. "Yay! Nobody is aiming nukes at us any more!"

        • What do we do if the target is Calcutta

          If you're Pakistani you'd probably throw a party, not let the Indians in. "Yay! Nobody is aiming nukes at us any more!"

          Unfortunately I think this scenario would almost guarantee the use of nukes.

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      think the next question is to ask ourselves how we are going to deal with these near-Earth asteroids.

      That's already been debated like a hella times... Bruce Willis will blow them up with poorly designed nukular bomb with help from a BP drilling rig...

  • DOOOOOMED!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Yes, we are. It seems a little known fact among the younger crowd that WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!! We may each live to be 150, but we're going to die sooner or later. We are, in fact, all doomed.

  • The question is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chill (34294) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:01AM (#32941042) Journal

    The question is, would they tell us -- the general public -- if any of them were a real threat?

    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:31AM (#32941118) Homepage Journal

      They'd tell you numbers which you wouldn't understand. Then the pundits would turn those numbers into something they can scare you with, probably overblowing the threat while they do so, and Concerned Citizens would go to their Congressmen demanding answers. NASA would provide those answers.. in a completely unintelligible way, and someone would interpret those answers as dismissing the threat. Then there'd be a big argument over whether it's a threat or isn't it. Eventually one of the egg heads with a wife will get a lecture about talking like a normal person once in a while and a press statement would be released saying exactly how likely and excessive the threat is (after it went through a few committees to ensure it was easy enough to understand, and defend). By this time the media will be completely bored with the story and the press release will be ignored by everyone, except for the next committee which is tasked with finding a solution. Having found the solution the funding will not be forthcoming as the whole thing has already been written off as a hoax. A few years of fighting for funding and being rebuffed later, the media will pick up on the story again.. perhaps after the threat has been renamed. This time a-solution-the-authorities-have-been-ignoring will be available and someone-better-lose-his-job-over-this. Of course, the solution that came out of that committee was for a situation that hasn't been true for years now, so we need a new committee.. this time with the President's appointment. They'll listen to a dozen different proposals, some of which have already been discarded as worthless, and choose the one that has the best political chance of being enacted quickly. Eventually it'll get funding but the project will stall after 2 years of development, but thankfully some of the runner up concepts also got a trickle of funding. There will be a political fight to fund the more successful project over the stalled project, but that will fail, instead more money will be directed towards the hopeless project, until finally the egos on both sides subside and come up with some "compromise" solution that will half work, averting the complete extinction of human kind but still killing a few million people in a far-off-land. Everyone will swear that next-time-we'll-be-ready but not actually do anything to ensure that's the case.. a few years later researchers will complain that their funding for early warning systems is being cut, and the general public will not care because, hey, it didn't turn out to be as big a deal as they said it was going to be anyway.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Thank all the deities there are few space agencies with largely independent capabilities.

        It might be actually a great PR, one that will be somewhat remembered for a long time - a new space race, of sorts.

      • by Agripa (139780)

        I have been waiting to use this quote in a Slashdot reply:

        Professor Bernard Quatermass: The will to survive is an odd phenomenon. Roney, if we found out our own world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do about it?
        Dr. Mathew Roney: Nothing, just go on squabbling like usual.
        Professor Bernard Quatermass: Yes, but what if we weren't men?

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062168/ [imdb.com]

    • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:18AM (#32941222) Journal
      "The question is, would they tell us -- the general public -- if any of them were a real threat?"

      Of course they would, but then the general public will also be told by..

      Corporate lobbyists: Asteroids don't exist and these hacked emails prove it.
      Greenpeace: Minning companies altered it's orbit so as to get their hands on the minerals.
      Politicians: Dear voter, I think the same way about this issue as you do, whatever that may be.
      BP: For $2 billion we can put a hat on it.
      Obama: That's a mighty fine hat.
      Bush: Heck of a job there BP.
      Christians: Pack your bags, here comes the rapture.
      Muslims: Pack your bags, here come the virgins.
      Jews: I can see the promised land in my telescope.
      Myans: We told you so.
      New age mystics: There's a herbal remedy available for ass-ter-oids.
      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @06:38AM (#32941888) Homepage Journal

        Greenpeace: Minning companies altered it's orbit so as to get their hands on the minerals.

        Grammar Nazis: stuff asteroids, apostrophes are the real threat.

        • Greenpeace: Minning companies altered it's orbit so as to get their hands on the minerals.

          Grammar Nazis: stuff asteroids, apostrophes are the real threat.

          "Mining companies..." Spelling Nazis are no so amused either. Bob the Angry Flower [angryflower.com] is not so amused either.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Muslims: Pack your bags, here come the virgins.

        In order to get the virgins, you have to die fighting for Islam. If they offered the prize to anyone who simply followed the religion you'd find no-one is interested in dying now. If the US army just offered free food and board with no risk or responsibility what kind of recruits do you think it would get?

        This is very similar to the older Nordic religions in this respect, only those who fell in battle were taken to Valhalla.

        On further consideration, wh

    • by ultranova (717540)

      The question is, would they tell us -- the general public -- if any of them were a real threat?

      Probably not. Judging by how our leaders react to every other problem, an extinction-level event 50 years from now will be kicked to the next administration to deal with, who will kick it still forward, and so on. After all, the current crop won't be alive anymore by then, so why endanger their re-election by raising taxes to fund doing something about it? And, since there's always a chance of error, they'll be t

    • by Dr La (1342733)
      Data on new objects, even before they have meaningful orbital solutions are made public by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center at Harvard (which is not a government entity, for the conspiracy mindset among us) via the NEOCP list, a list of freshly discovered objects in desperate need of follow-up by as much observatories as possible). As are any follow-up data (often by non-US observatories). From they get propagated into various databases worlwide almost immediately. So yeah - it wil
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:57AM (#32941180)

    Or, I'm a grad student of the PI, anyway. Something they didn't note in the article is that sometime today the satellite successfully imaged 100% of the sky, after ~6 months of successful operation. The cryogen is currently expected to last until the first week of Nov or so, so we should be able to get half the sky double covered. In principal, we could do the full sky twice with the shorter wavelength channels, but there isn't funding for a warm mission as of right now.

    Sadly, the asteroid finding channel needs the cryogen.

    Check out the WISE website [berkeley.edu], though. This mission is almost certain to produce images that will be used by Google and Microsoft in the future. It's also producing a catalog of interesting objects for followup by the James Web Space Telescope.

    • by MrMr (219533)
      If the mission results are going to be used by the numbers two and three in IT, perhaps they could be persuaded to fork out an hours worth of bonuses to sponsor the project?
    • by sznupi (719324)

      So, did somebody already estimate how many will be "lost" because we didn't have a second lock on the position of many of those discovered bodies? (which is required after all to have a decent idea of their orbits; and preferably few more)

      • I don't even know if that's possible to estimate because it all depends on the voluntary efforts of others to do much of the followup. It also depends on the orbit and where WISE is seeing it - WISE basically orbits over the day-night line pointed up, more or less, so it sees the solar system poles far more often than anywhere else and may not need independent followup for objects seen there. In the ecliptic, contrastingly, WISE is expected to be able to image an asteroid 8+ times. The only reason that's no

  • by symbolset (646467) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:07AM (#32941198) Journal

    Maybe if we want to get a probe out that way it could hitch a ride - and keep an eye on its dangerous companion as well.

    While we're at it, Ceres is a nice asteroid to visit. It will be in a good spot in four years. It's likely completely covered with ice, could have liquid water, and has a nice low escape velocity - especially when you consider the rotational boost at the equator. Why, it's got a lot of the stuff you would be looking for in a fuel depot in the asteroid belt as a gateway to the stars. If Obama wants to visit Asteroids, let me recommend the biggest one.

    I think if I was writing sci-fi I'd put habitation rings on the poles of Ceres and then accelerate them until they had a comfortable .5G or so on the perimeter. Probably counter-rotate the rings and tunnel through the planetoid from axis to axis. Nuclear power of course. Access through the Axis where it's close to 0G. An AI controlled water-based auto gyro-balancing mechanism can correct for people and stuff moving about on the wheels and hosing up the gyro. Asteroid mining ships wouldn't dock, they're too big. They'd get their water and provisions by scheduling an intercept vector. Launching would be a matter of pumping water to the right spot on the equator, embedding potables and manufactured goods and trackers and letting it freeze and then letting it out on a tether until it had even more rotational velocity and letting it go at the right moment. On Ceres the space elevator idea works well. Maybe snow-coat the package for impact absorption and target an asteroid close to the miner far off in the belt. Trade for fissionables and high grade ore - just launch the package into a Ceres intercept vector tagged with an invoice number and minimal course-correction waldos for close approach control.

    Asteroid miners could visit on shuttles though - land on the equator, hop a local shuttle and enter through the Axis, or better yet - an elevator to the Core habitat with tunnels to the poles. Maybe I'd spin the core habitat too, and land the elevator just off it. With a surface gravity of 0.02G, the core pressure can't be too high for a habitat that's well armored by the mass of the planetoid. The equator gives a nice rotational vector for liftoff, reducing escape delta-v by almost 1/4. It's a great spot for a spaceport and colony - except for the long winters of course. Probably some cultural differences between Ringers and Grounders on Ceres to build a story around, lots of caves to explore to work in an ET angle. With 2.6 million square kilometers of surface area maybe some real-estate issues. A few billion years ago it was quite a lot warmer out this far, as the Sun was much brighter, so the alien relics can represent species more like us. Lots of ice to take cores of and find evidence of panspermia for the stories.

    While we're at it, let's have asteroid miners drop laser reflectors and/or radar transponders on the largest asteroids they visit - that just happen to illuminate much of the belt in a way that facilitates object tracking.

    Ceres is too rock-active for an interstellar spaceport and starship shipwright. For that you need a low-G environment near a planet that's swept its orbit so I would put that on Phobos probably.

    There are lots of rocks out there. Impacts have to be fairly frequent too for added drama. It's likely by now the dust-to-pea sized stuff is well collected by now into larger asteroids so it's just the Walnut-to-city sized stuff to worry about. I wonder if anybody's calculated asteroid intercepts for Ceres yet. Ceres has had a long time to intercept the easy targets, just as Earth has, but there are a lot more rocks in that neighborhood than ours.

    • by MacAnkka (1172589)

      Well that was an intreguing piece of writing :)

      Ceres does appear to be an interesting place indeed. I guess that's why we've got the Dawn spacecraft [wikipedia.org] on the way there. 5 more years and we'll know a lot more about the place than before. If 5 years sound too far away, it'll also be studing Vesta, another interesting large asteroid belt object, next year.

    • Nice ideas. Too bad with our current technology we would be limited to landing a couple of nearly empty fuel tanks and a box of duct tape.

      But go for it...
    • There's really no "hitching a ride" possible - to hitch without destroying (impacting) the spacecraft, both it and the asteroid need to travel at almost the same orbit already.

      Furthermore, Ceres is not an asteroid...

      Generally, don't go too overboard with SciFi fun; "impact absorption" won't really work at typical approach velocities between different orbits; that (and large scale mining too, perhaps) would probably just give a "Solar Kessler Syndrome" in the long run. There's lots and lots of energy, at big

  • If... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frozentier (1542099) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:15AM (#32941216)
    If they do detect an asteroid on a collision course with earth, I hope they take it more seriously than they took millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. They'll probably just pass legislation banning asteroids from hitting the earth, then debate for years about who's responsibility it is to stop it.
    • by dameron (307970) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @03:35AM (#32941492) Homepage

      Humans are weird.

      If there were a real Bruckheimer moment, and we were suddenly faced with an extinction level asteroid impact with little time to avert it, we would surely muster as much of our resources as we could to try to avoid certain doom, even if it cost hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars.

      However, if that asteroid were 15 or 20 years away?

      The bickering would continue right up until impact. A small but highly funded group of "astronomers" would assure us that the asteroid would miss the earth entirely.

      And another group of "astronomers" would insist that there was no asteroid at all.

      We're hard wired like Holtzman shields: the sudden, quick attack raises our defenses, while we the slow attack boils us like frogs.

      I maintain hope that we'll avoid a catastrophe that causes us to have to muster our efforts, at least until we progress beyond having to ask how it will impact this quarter's profits.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        However, if that asteroid were 15 or 20 years away? The bickering would continue right up until impact. A small but highly funded group of "astronomers" would assure us that the asteroid would miss the earth entirely.

        Your world view is rather depressive. I imagine it'd take a year or two to really confirm the trajectory is on a collision course with earth, then an Apollo-like decade of hard science and engineering and hopefully a happy ending while the asteroid is still way out there. I think we'd have much bigger problems with an immidiate danger, for each passing day the effort required to get it out of earth's orbit would increase so I'm not sure throwing endless manpower and resources at it would help as they start

        • by shaitand (626655)

          "Your world view is rather depressive."

          AKA realistic. The problem is that no space related project can succeed if it requires funding beyond the term of the current political trolls.

          • by Urkki (668283)

            "Your world view is rather depressive."

            AKA realistic. The problem is that no space related project can succeed if it requires funding beyond the term of the current political trolls.

            How about changing that to "requires funding beyond the life of current political trolls", and an asteroid that would be hitting earth sooner than that? There's no "safe harbor" for no kind of personal pension fund that's safe against an asteroid impact, and even a stupider-than-average politician (or the lobbyists manipulating him) understand that...

      • How about this? Astronomers agree with the ruling class that a gigantic hoax would have "positive" effects on society. The heat of the asteroid entering the atmosphere would heat the entire planet beyond habitability range. They then fudge or fabricate data to support this "asteroid warming" theory. Everyone supports the warming theory due to the alarmism it creates, thus putting in place the necessary social capital to bring radical changes to life as we know it, all to thwart the theorized "asteroid w
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dylan_- (1661)

          How about this? Astronomers agree with the ruling class that a gigantic hoax would have "positive" effects on society.

          Unbelievably, there are actually people who believe that this could actually happen! Of course, they're the kind of person who're either too lazy or too stupid to just learn a bit of astronomy and check for themselves, yet are still convinced that they know better than anyone who's actually made the effort. But then, there's no shortage of those.

          • And yet, if any did, they would be shouted down as they were only ordinary people making observations, and not properly accredited Astronomers.

            You obviously do not comprehend the raging contempt for ordinary people shown by your ruling class.

            • by dylan_- (1661)

              And yet, if any did, they would be shouted down as they were only ordinary people making observations, and not properly accredited Astronomers.

              Except, of course, this doesn't happen in real life. There are many amateur scientists in all fields who make valued contributions. It's only the lazy who don't produce any work at all, don't bother learning even the basics of a subject, and yet think their idle speculations are somehow worthy of note, who complain about being shouted down. What they're really whinin

  • <pedant>

    They have probably existed for millions of years — what is new is that they are newly known to mankind.

    OK: a few might be new as a result of recent collisions, but most are old.
    </pedant>

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sznupi (719324)

      Hush, they're just 6k years old.

      • by shaitand (626655)

        That's just fscking great. We are all going to be killed by a pack of n00bs who don't know where to run to avoid drawing agro.

  • by johno.ie (102073) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:11AM (#32942206)

    Let's burn down the observatory so this kind of thing will never happen again.

  • from a very interesting explanation by mister Brian Cox is that just mapping what's out there is not enough by far. We get saved from a lot of deepspace attacks (we all know the giant bugs are responsible ofcourse) by our huge nephews Saturn and Jupiter, who sit quietly closer to the outskirts of our solar system, attracting a lot of 'space debris' into the rings, or into orbit. BUT, they are also responsible for changing the trajectory of objects that happen to be fast and/or massive enough to escape their

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