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Earth Moon Space NASA

An Asteroid Passed By Earth At About Half the Distance Between Our Planet and Moon (smithsonianmag.com) 161

On Monday at 7:47 A.M. EST, an asteroid thought to be between 36 and 111 feet wide passed roughly 120,000 miles from Earth -- and astronomers didn't spot it until Saturday. Smithsonian reports: According to astronomer Eric Edelman at the Slooh Observatory, 2017 AG13 is an Aten asteroid, or a space rock with an orbital distance from the sun similar to that of Earth. AG13 also has a particularly elliptical orbit, which means that as it circles the sun it also crosses through the orbits of both Venus and Earth. Lucky for us, 2017 AG13 wasn't a planet killer; according to Wall, the asteroid was in the size range of the space rock that exploded in Earth's atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February, 2013. According to Deborah Byrd at EarthSky, that meteor exploded 12 miles in the atmosphere, releasing 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Not only did it break windows in six cities, it also sent 1,500 people to the hospital. That meteor also came out of the blue, and researchers are still trying to figure out its orbit and track down its origins. While 2017 AG13 would have caused minor damage if it hit Earth, the close call highlights the dangers of asteroids.
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An Asteroid Passed By Earth At About Half the Distance Between Our Planet and Moon

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Once again inanimate rock you have failed us you helped out the dinosaurs god really does hate us

    • Once again inanimate rock you have failed us you helped out the dinosaurs god really does hate us

      By no means. This is just God's way of reminding us not to get caught doing what the dinosaurs got caught doing.

      • Once again inanimate rock you have failed us you helped out the dinosaurs god really does hate us

        By no means. This is just God's way of reminding us not to get caught doing what the dinosaurs got caught doing.

        Yup, eating and procreating are evil things. You will burn in an imaginary hell forever!

    • I voted for "Extinction Event Asteroid" in 2016....

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @03:28AM (#53646529)
    >> meteor also came out of the blue

    There is no blue...in SPAAACE!
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @03:29AM (#53646531)
    >> a space rock with an orbital distance from the sun similar to that of Earth

    Presumably, that's why it almost hit us.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In what world does 30 times the energy of Hiroshima qualify as "minor damage"?

    • Re:Minor damage (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @03:49AM (#53646575)

      In what world does 30 times the energy of Hiroshima qualify as "minor damage"?

      in the world where it explodes 30 times higher in the sky than the Hiroshima bomb.

      • Re:Minor damage (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @03:50AM (#53646577)
        (and without radioactivity)
      • Hiroshima was actually a rather small nuclear bomb. Bombs even 1000x stronger have been tested and guess what, we're still here. http://www.tsarbomba.org/image... [tsarbomba.org]
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, but their target/placement isn't. Look for the missing islands in the atoll where they tested the really big bombs.

        • Pedantic note: The bomb dropped on Hiroshima wasn't "nuclear", it was "atomic". "Nuclear" (in the context of bombs) is short for "thermonuclear", which is a type of bomb that uses nuclear fusion to achieve most of its yield. They accomplish this using a smaller fission bomb to set off the fusion part of the bomb. "Atomic" bombs are fission-only devices with generally much smaller yields.

          • by quenda ( 644621 )

            Pedantic note: The bomb dropped on Hiroshima wasn't "nuclear", it was "atomic".

            They are all "nuclear". Fission splits the nucleus in two.

            > uses nuclear fusion to achieve most of its yield.

            Not necessarily. In a big bomb, most of the yield can actually come from fission of the U238 tamper in the secondary.
            The "Tsara Bomba" was only 50MT instead of 100 because the replaced the U238 damper with lead.

            > "Atomic" bombs are fission-only devices

            No, not always. They can be fusion-boosted single-stage weapons.
            You're not real great at this "being pedantic" lark eh? :-)

          • In the terms of warheads aka bombs nuclear and atomic means the exact same thing.
            None of the words either implies fission (n)or fusion. That is true for languages like english, german etc.

            If you want to talk about fission bombs you use the word fission.
            If you want to talk about fusion bombs you use the word fusion, however in this case you can also call it a hydrogen bomb (again: common in languages like english and german).

            But thank you, Padawan, that you you are concerned about language hygiene, that is i

      • Re:Minor damage (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:08AM (#53646617)

        In what world does 30 times the energy of Hiroshima qualify as "minor damage"?

        in the world where it explodes 30 times higher in the sky than the Hiroshima bomb.

        In a world where larger asteroids could wipe out most complex life on this planet, a rock "only" big enough to destroy a city is still pretty minor.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          In what world does 30 times the energy of Hiroshima qualify as "minor damage"?

          in the world where it explodes 30 times higher in the sky than the Hiroshima bomb.

          In a world where larger asteroids could wipe out most complex life on this planet, a rock "only" big enough to destroy a city is still pretty minor.

          IN A WORLD, where larger asteroids could wipe out most complex life on this planet, ONE MAN stands between the wrath of God and life on earth as we know it.
          Coming this summer, SPACE POPE.

    • The world of relativity.
  • It's going to take a decent size rock hitting somewhere in the US before we finally start to take asteroid surveillance seriously. If one hits a major city (I volunteer Boston) suddenly we'll figure out that hey, maybe we should spend more than what we spend studying the asswiping habits of Filipino used car salesmen on trying to detect giant space rocks that can knock us back into the stone-age or worse.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nope - common folk will say that after one hit, the odds of another hit is vanishingly small, so why bother doing anything. In actuality the hits are statistically independent, but try to explain that on family TV.

    • Given the US, I'd say it would serve no good use but to get people to fall onto their knees, pray and essentially do nothing useful.

      • "get people to fall onto their knees, pray and essentially do nothing useful."

        Redundant

        • Should've written "generally" instead of "essentially", agreed.

          • "I'll pray for you" is the same as saying "I want to look like I care, but I don't care enough to actually do anything useful to help and can't admit there's nothing I can do"

            • should be "help and/or can't"

            • "I'll pray for you" is the same as saying "I want to look like I care, but I don't care enough to actually do anything useful to help and can't admit there's nothing I can do"

              I always figured it was a passive-aggresive way of saying "I'm holier-than-thou."

    • I volunteer Washington DC with all of congress and the pres and vice-pres in town when it happens

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        I volunteer Washington DC with all of congress and the pres and vice-pres in town when it happens

        You figure President Rex Tillerson will sort out the problem?

  • If it didn't hit the Earth, how are we more or less lucky that it wasn't a planet killer?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's what *I* thought. Actually I wish it HAD been a planet killer -- becuase it missed us.

      And just like a gambler, that obviously means our chances for the next few years / millenia is greatly reduced.

      • False application of statistics. If statistics say that you'll have a flood every 30 years on average doesn't mean that because you had a flood this year it's impossible that there will be one next year. The chance for a flood is 1/30 every year. No matter how many floods you had in the past years.

        Same for asteroid hits. One missing today doesn't increase the chance of one hitting tomorrow.

        • One missing today doesn't increase the chance of one hitting tomorrow.

          Are asteroids truly independent from each other? Couldn't they come from the same asteroid "cloud" or "belt"?
          I'm honestly asking, I have no idea.

      • And here, ladies and gentlemen, is why Las Vegas floats on a sea of money.

    • by darkonc ( 47285 )
      It crosses our orbit which means that -- now that we know where it is -- we will probably notice that it comes 'near' earth on a semi-regular basis, and it may impact us sooner or later (sooner rather than later).. I, for one, am happy that it's not big enough to destroy more than a town or two if hits in a populated area -- rather than leaving a hole big enough to be noticed on a full-world map.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    36 feet wide, 120,000 miles ?!

    GROW UP.

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      Talking to your reflection in the mirror isn't going to help you mature. You might try interacting with other people.

    • by fizzup ( 788545 )

      The radius of the asteroid does not affect the chances of impact.

      The chances of an asteroid hitting the earth, if randomly directed within a circle equal to the mean orbital distance of the moon, is one chance in (Rm/re)**2, which is (384/6.4)**2, or about one chance in 3600. The size of the asteroid does not have a material effect on the chances of impact because ra << re for all asteroids. Even Ceres has a radius that's an order of magnitude smaller than the Earth's.

      The size (mass, really) of the as

  • The dangers... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rew ( 6140 ) <r.e.wolff@BitWizard.nl> on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:47AM (#53646687) Homepage

    > the close call highlights the dangers of asteroids.

    One: Nothing happened. So how dangerous was this? If it HAD hit, maybe several hundred people would've visited hospitals and some windows woudl have had to be replaced.

    Two: The danger is teaching people "an asteroid killed the dinosaurs, what if an asteroid kills us?". That is dangerous. A really BIG asteroid killed the dinosaurs. These small ones are nothing to worry about. Let's assume this thing is aiming for earth, but hits randomly somewhere inside the moon's orbit. The earth has a radius of about 6000km, the moon's orbit about 300000km. A ratio of 50, so the chances of hitting earth are 1/2500. The people making a stir about these things are the ones that stand to gain employment from scaring the general public about this.

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @07:04AM (#53646905)

      It was Chelyabinsk-sized. A direct hit on a city could kill millions of people.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Would the Chelyabinsk rock have caused millions of deaths had hit in exactly the same way, except with a major city as its epicenter?

        My non-rocket-scientist reading of the wikipedia page made it sound like it's shallow entry angle caused it to lose a lot of its energy in the atmosphere and that secondary effects (like broken windows from the airburst) was where most of the injuries came from. Although that kind of airburst over a place filled with glass curtain-wall skyscrapers may actually make it more da

        • Ignoring the flash flood something like this would probably cause, yes...

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            I guess its an angle of entry thing, where with a shallow trajectory it gets more time to heat up in the atmosphere and explode there versus a high trajectory where it direct impact would cause a problem.

            But assuming a direct hit over deep water in the Pacific, what kind of coastal inundation could we really expect? Can a 10-40 meter rock displace enough water in the center of an ocean actually produce significant wave action far away?

            The underwater nuke tests like Wigwam (30 kt) don't seem to have done mu

            • by meglon ( 1001833 )
              It also depends on what type it is. Chelyabinsk was a low metal/low iron chondrite; had it been a nickle/iron it (most likely) wouldn't have disintegrated/exploded like it did (regardless of entry angle). If that were the case, consider what a ~500kt nuke would do in downtown Los Angeles.

              The other way to answer the OP, though.... while these events are rare (on the order of once every 60 years), I think that describing something 13,000 to 14,000 tons traveling ~40,000 miles per hour as "nothing to worr
      • It was Chelyabinsk-sized. A direct hit on a city could kill millions of people.

        I am having trouble putting this in perspective. Could you convert to VW Beetles, Libraries of Congress, or their metric equivalents?

        • Libraries of Congress

          Well the library of congress is a library as we all know. All libraries have a librarian. So just imagine that millions of these librarians gathered and decided to live in one place forming a city. Now imagine that this asteroid came in and killed the millions of librarians in the city.

          So the answer is millions of libraries of congress.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Those who think humans could do anything to stop even a small asteroid, let alone a big one, need to read this report. Something around 36 hours between it being detected and it passing Earth. Maybe enough time to evacuate part of a medium sized city but that's about all.
      • It's not unreasonable to assume that with advances in computation and optics we can push this detection window out a lot further. Just a matter of will and funding....
    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @09:01AM (#53647177) Homepage

      You can't just divide the numbers. Gravity pulls stuff in, and the windows are tiny. Think Apollo 13 - only a tiny offset makes the difference between direct catastrophic entry and bouncing off the atmosphere.

      And we have NO WAY to change that trajectory anyhow.

      Also, statistically the chances are that most humans will die in such an impact - they're rare but when they happen they are INCREDIBLY serious. This was a BIG object, it would have changed life forever. It would have been "an event" not just a random meteorite landing on a desert or ocean.

      Also, the bit you're missing? We basically missed this. It's been circling the Sun forever, it's been going to hit us forever, and we didn't spot it. We probably don't have a way to effectively spot it and others like it.

      And a few thousands of a degree change in its arc and it would have been something that people recorded for the rest of future history and killed millions. It was only sheer chance that we "escaped".

      So, actually, as a mathematician and therefore of a scientific mind, this is a damn sight more important than what some orange fool said about some actress. By orders of magnitude.

      Roll on the day when THIS is the news and not all that other junk.

      • And we have NO WAY to change that trajectory anyhow.

        Sure we do, or at least we would if we invested some resources into the project. If we spotted city-killers like this far out enough (with enough warning time), it's entirely possible to change their trajectory through various means: solar sails, painting them white, strapping a rocket engine to the side, etc. But we need to know about it well, well in advance so we can accurately predict whether it's a threat, and then work on modifying its trajectory o

      • apollo 13 was a movie for christsake.
    • The people making a stir about these things are the ones that stand to gain employment from scaring the general public

      So, news writers and editors then.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Carrington event.
    Supervolcano.
    Asteroid impact.
    Widespread cretinism.

    Take your pick.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Look out for "Cascadia Subduction Zone", if you live in the west of the USA/Canada (or Japan's east coast)

    • Carrington event.
      Supervolcano.
      Asteroid impact.
      Widespread cretinism.
      Take your pick.

      All of the above.

      Oh, is it Christmas again? Or was that last week?

  • Space rocks must be outlawed!

  • Were too busy trying to make the Trump/Russia connection,

    AG13 just snuck up on them.

    "Will someone bring Eric some fresh knickers, he's stinking up the place!"

    • About EVERY halfway decent rock that hit earth in the more recent past was in Russia. C'mon people, it's SO damn obvious!

  • The moon is far (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nukenbar ( 215420 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @11:01AM (#53647771)

    remember this is the real scale of the Earth to the moon.

    http://colchrishadfield.tumblr.com/image/57696912776

  • *sigh*. 2016 will go down in history as the year every single campaign, including Giant Meteor 2016 [fusion.net], failed us all.
  • (Sorry, but don't recall where I got the following, but it wasn't that long ago.): Why care about asteroids possibly hitting the earth? The odds in your children's lifetime: "City-killer"-sized - 30% (Larger than the one which hit Russia in 1908.) (There are about a million near-earth asteroids out there about this size. We've located about 10,000 of them. "World War"-sized - 1% (The chance of your house burning down is less than 1% Do you buy insurance for that?). "End-of-us-all"-sized - .001% What
  • That too ;)

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