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Space News

Small Asteroid On Collision Course With Earth 397

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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  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:13PM (#25279281) Homepage Journal

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

  • Scary... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZipprHead ( 106133 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:33PM (#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 @08:36PM (#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].
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by philspear ( 1142299 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @08:37PM (#25279493)

    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, or is that pretty much impossible?

    I realize this next question depends on a lot of factors, such as asteroid composition, angle of entry, and the answer to that last question, but if a rock landed in my backyard, again about the size of a basketball, what is the range of sizes before it entered that you would expect? Volkswagon? Semi truck? Seems like something that someone would have calculated.

    Basically, I'm wondering if it's possible that a pea-sized meteorite could go flying through my head like a bullet.

  • by Jonathan McDowell ( 515872 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @09:29PM (#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

  • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @10:14PM (#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.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson