Friday, February 15, 2013

Watch the skies

The meteorite event over and around Chelyabinsk, in Russia, poses a challenge to bloggers. Everyone wants to talk about it and to read about it. Unfortunately, online opinionators can bring no "value added" to this kind of story. You'd have to be a very, very clever monkey to find some way to politicize the incident.

Initially, I was very intrigued by any possible connection between this meteorite and Asteroid 2012 DA14, which is passing close to our fair planet as I write these words. But the European Space Agency resolved that issue when they announced that the meteorite's trajectory bore no relation to that of the asteroid.

In 2010, as you may recall, Obama announced the goal of landing a manned craft on an asteroid by 2025. The asteroid Apophis -- what a wonderfully sinister name! -- is scheduled to make a close fly-by in 2029. Originally, scientists thought that that this body had a 2.7% chance of striking the Earth, but that figure has since been rounded down to zero. Not to worry, apocalypse fans: A "gravitational keyhole" could deflect the asteroid into a course that might cause an impact in 2036.

If you were of a conspiratorial turn of mind, you might posit that the real numbers (which the gummint keeps secret, of course) are more frightening, and that Obama announced the 2025 goal in order to ready us for an apocalypse-averting asteroid intervention.

Do I believe that? Not really. But when you're a blogger who is trying very hard to be a clever monkey, you work with what you have.

Added Note: Our long-time contributor b is a very clever monkey indeed. In a comment appended to the preceding post (the one about Marco Rubio), b offers some very strange speculation about this meteorite. Normally, I discourage off-topic comments -- but this one is fun, and you may want to look it up.

Added added note: And then there's dear old Vladimir Zhirinovsky...
On meteors and UFO's. Notice that there are lots of videos of this meteor flying over head. Same with other meteorite flybys and near misses. When it comes to UFO's don't the toothless denizens of trailer parks own any video cameras. Or did all their extra cash go for new cinder blocks under the Trans-Am in the front yard?
Yesterday saw the most devastating recorded-but-unpredicted impact by a space object, in terms of injuries to human beings, since 1490. (The 1908 Tunguska event, which has still not been explained to my satisfaction, happened in a remote area.)

Then, 16 hours later, came the closest predicted miss by a space object of anywhere near its size.

Either that's a truly amazing coincidence or the funding-hungry PR-skilled scientific agencies such as the ESA and NASA are arguing from wrong assumptions.

It was only about 200 years ago that the western scientific community first accepted that rocks do sometimes fall from space.

A causal connection between 2012DA14 and Chelyabinsk doesn't have to involve the Chelyabinsk rocks splitting from the asteroid.
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