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NASA Space Science Technology

NASA Counts 4,700 Potentially Hazardous Near-Earth Asteroids 99

coondoggie writes "NASA continues to get a better handle on the asteroids buzzing around in space saying today that there are roughly 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids, or as NASA calls them PHAs. NASA says these PHAs are a subset of a larger group of near-Earth asteroids but have the closest orbits to Earth's – passing within five million miles (or about eight million kilometers) and are big enough to survive passing through Earth's atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale."
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NASA Counts 4,700 Potentially Hazardous Near-Earth Asteroids

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  • "Here comes one now!" to which they replied: "PHA!"
  • PHA (Score:5, Funny)

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:27AM (#40025849)

    PHA - Pointy Haired Asteroid?

    • Re:PHA (Score:4, Funny)

      by robthebloke ( 1308483 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:03AM (#40026181)
      Probably Harmless Asteroid
    • Pointy Hats Ascendant.

      Basically, the Unseen University has moved into space.

      (note, the ENTIRE university, not just one member, so no saying "it's already been done", and citing "The Last Hero")

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      We have hairy black holes already, despite people thinking they couldn't exist, so it wouldn't surprise me that much.

      What I have a problem with is the word "potentially". Not a lot of people instinctively understand what it means. We also have several hundred million potential child molesters in the US, and 47 European countries who may potentially declare war on the US next year.

      It must be budget time again if NASA plays the populist card.

      • 47 European countries who may potentially declare war on the US next year.

        Finally, a policy I could vote for!

    • NASA: National Association of Superfluous Acronyms
  • From WP: "An object is considered a PHO if its minimum orbit intersection distance (MOID) with respect to Earth is less than 0.05 AU (7,500,000 km; 4,600,000 mi) and its diameter is at least 150 m (nearly 500 ft)".

    Why does TFS indicate that the distance in miles is accurate when it is just as much an approximation as the one in km?
  • All well and good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:39AM (#40025881)
    But we are still hopeless at spotting these things for instance today Asteroid 2012KA will pass within 224000 Kilometres of earth http://www.universetoday.com/95202/asteroid-2012-ka-to-buzz-earth-on-may-17/ [universetoday.com] the scary thing is it was only discovered yesterday!!!

    So what are we going to do when one the size of texas comes heading for DC I mean aside from putting marshmallows on extremely long sticks :)

    • We need a nationwide network of marshmallow repositories to be kept on permanent 24/7 standby. And long sticks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by gtall ( 79522 )

      Offer the asteroid Texas and call it Springtime in America.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I find it's best to quote from the bible:

      "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

    • Develop and build underground cities around the world. Develop and build nuclear fusion plants and place them close to the underground cities. Store enough fuel for a couple of centuries. Develop and build huge mirrors and place them in orbit around the sun either thousand of miles in front of Earth or behind it. I am sure we could not save all of Earth's population but we could save enough to continue our species after the effects of the strike pass. The mirrors could be used to concentrate sun light
    • So what are we going to do when one the size of texas comes heading for DC

      Cheer for Real Change!

    • So what are we going to do when one the size of texas comes heading for DC

      Sheesh! Why is it people always need to be reminded of the standard emergency protocol?

      Write a tweet, update facebook status, check into foursquare, write a new blog entry, start following the #fucksie hashtag, and re-tweet everything Stephan Fry says.

    • how is that insightful??
      "another asteroid between 4.5 and 10 meters (14-33 feet) wide" just missed the Earth. Go look at http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/ [nasa.gov] for real data. Thing is we are in estimated 95 percentile about potentially hazardous asteroids now.

  • Star Tram (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @04:49AM (#40025913)

    I'm going to beat the drum for Star Tram again here, we need this built to have a defence against asteroids, since Bruce Willis is a bit long in the tooth to be leading a gang of roughnecks to the rescue at this stage.

  •     So, which one is going to hit us on Dec 21st? :)

        I know, I know, NASA says there isn't one. Every good tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy nut knows it's coming.

        For a special limited time, I am offering tinfoil hat adjustments, should you not see the "truth". Paypal me $499.95 and your hat size, and I'll send you out a properly adjusted tinfoil hat.

    • Are they real tin, or are you using aluminium foil?

      • For the special low price of $499.95, the default option is a tinfoil hat of 100% real tin, certified by our own staff metallurgist.

        (Note: His only real qualification is that he can read the box that says "tin foil", but we keep him on staff because he does have a Doctorate in Metallurgy from Wossamotta U.)

        For the finer tastes, we will alternatively provide foil hats in aluminum, copper, or a variety of stylish foil bonded papers.

        Gold and platinum foil hats are a

  • More of this please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turing_m ( 1030530 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:07AM (#40025995)

    It kind of disappoints me when I read an article on slashdot that is about something worthwhile that humanity really needs to get behind and fund, yet there won't be many comments. This is one of those types of articles. Normally the surefire comment magnets are trolling articles, or feature a topic that has a lot of fanbois, or better yet a technological holy war between several factions of fanbois.

    However, that shouldn't be a sign that no one is interested or cares about such things. We do. This site is about Stuff That Matters. Researching and preventing low probability cataclysms now we have the technology to attempt it is a very important and noble goal. Whether the average person realizes it or not, those goals are more important than 99% of other charitable goals, because without a habitable earth or human population there is no point to any charity.

    So in future while I can't usually add much more than a boring "this is great, more of this please" or a dumb joke if at all, this stuff is important and yes, we need more of it. Don't take low numbers of comments for lack of interest or perceived priority.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The market has decided that defending against asteroid impact is a waste of money.

      • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:31AM (#40026285)
        It always puzzles me how people invent all sorts of imaginary flaws in markets. For example, I got into this long argument [slashdot.org] with someone who was claiming that "free markets" created class structures and an exploited class on the bottom, but ignoring that both societies do that just fine on their own and markets actually help reduce such stratification. It's nonsense, but of a sort that's fairly pervasive in society.

        This complaint above is however of the biggest legitimate flaw of a market. Namely, if it doesn't trade on the market, it doesn't exist in the viewpoint of traders on the market. While there are (as I gather) a few businesses which can and do legitimately offer insurance or whatnot against asteroid impacts, the cost of such insurance is way out of line with the risk.

        It's much cheaper at this time to self-insure, that is, use your own resources to prepare against such low probability events.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Just read through your argument. [slashdot.org]
          You seemed to misapprehend a lot of valid points being made by your debating partner.

          I think the problem stems from the notion of what a Free Market can be when used appropriately by a conscientious population, and our present reality which contains psychopaths and psychopathic thinking.

          As it stands, the "Free Market" is an illusion. It's not free at all. (If one's definition of "Free" means unrestricted opportunity for everybody to exploit the market as they see fit.) I s

          • by khallow ( 566160 )

            I think the problem stems from the notion of what a Free Market can be when used appropriately by a conscientious population, and our present reality which contains psychopaths and psychopathic thinking.

            The markets work the same no matter who's trading on them. And it strikes me that markets provide a positive way to interact with psychopaths. I imagine for example, a psychopath would rather deal with someone via informal (and pretty unaccountable) spoken word agreements than interact through an impartial market. The former leaves plenty of room for scamming and liberal reinterpretations of what was said and agreed to. The market completely filters out the tricks in the psychopath's toolbag unless he can f

      • Well being that we don't have any good theoretical models to stop said asteroids, it is difficult for the market to invest into a defense.
        It would be like spending billions of dollars to paint a No-Asteroid sign on the United states (Europe and Asia, or Africa might make it bigger), In hope the asteroid will see the sign and decide to not hit the planet.

        • Well being that we don't have any good theoretical models to stop said asteroids, it is difficult for the market to invest into a defense.

          Nonsense. There are fantastic models that will definitely work to prevent asteroid strikes given enough lead time. The math has been done. E.g. Let's say Apophis looks like it's going to go through the keyhole and come around and hit earth -- a one ton spacecraft equipped with ion engines operating for 2 years as a gravity tractor bam done earth is saved let's have a parade.

          What's lacking is sufficient funding for discovering and tracking asteroids to make sure we find any dangerous ones far enough ahead

    • by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @05:29AM (#40026079)

      Aren't we way ahead on this with asteroid mining?

      I mean the first step of that company is rolling out a mass-producible telescope specifically for spotting near Earth asteroids - something with a dangerous orbit also happens to be a great candidate for resource extraction, and their long term plan (deflect the targets into stable orbits around the moon) - has the benefit of developing the exact tools and techniques we'd need to employ for any type of practical asteroid defense.

      I mean, I'd say this is very much on its way to being a solved problem. Go go private sector (and potential piles of platinum).

    • by Nrrqshrr ( 1879148 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @06:52AM (#40026397)
      Oh, you know how it is... No one will bother with a proposal for this, until it hits something and kills a couple of millions. THEN we will start thinking this out seriously.
      So yeah, let's just hope that the first one to hit won't cause too much damage, but enough to scare the shit out of people.
    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      I think it's interesting from an academic standpoint, but hardly something that needs immediate expenditure of massive resources.

      "those goals are more important than 99% of other charitable goals, because without a habitable earth or human population there is no point to any charity."

      From the article, NASA states that there are no asteroids that are capable of an extinction type event of the type we believe wiped out the dinosaurs.

      As usual, we'll wait for a major destructive impact before closing the prover

    • A miss is as good as a mile.

      It's not really that interesting until we know when and if the big one is going to hit because nature has many other ways to cause catastrophes yet there's no way to prevent them either.

  • I thought there were more like 470,000 PHOs. Whew!
  • Whenever these stories get posted, there is always a calming disclaimer that none of the asteroids threatens Earth. But does anyone know whether NASA (or anyone else) is modeling asteroid orbits with each other? I realize it's not like a set of billiard balls, but is anyone checking to see if any current non-threatening asteroids could be diverting into Earth's path from colliding with another object?
    • They almost certainly aren't, because it doesn't make any sense to do so.

      For the vast majority of the bodies in question (99%+), they aren't big enough to survive a collision that generates sufficient energy to divert them. For the tiny percent that are big enough (up above the "smash a city" size) the odds against such a collision are truly enormous - in the "happens less than a handful of times in the entire life of the solar system" range. Anything else (I.E. accumulations of smaller collisions

  • If I was a multi-billionaire and a huge asteroid was going to kill earth i would develop a special ship and suit to allow me to dock with and dr strangelove the asteroid to impact. Just think how great that would feel.
  • by Anonymous Coward


  • by chenjeru ( 916013 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:22AM (#40027027)

    Here's a cool video showing all known asteroids with a time-lapse revealing the year they were discovered: http://youtu.be/cKT1VGIDEd4?hd=1 [youtu.be]

  • We'll destroy the PHAs with our Super Energy Ray.
    And that's the true origin of the PHASER !

"Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!" -- Looney Tunes, "What's Opera Doc?" (1957, Chuck Jones)