A big but small asteroid rapidly approaches Earth as it karooms around our solar system. And just in time for my wife Kristina’s birthday. On its merry way Asteroid 2005 YU55 shall pass inside Luna’s orbit as our moon revolves around Planet Earth. It’s a bit too close for comfort for such a large rock barreling through space, but all government officials and NASA scientists involved are calmly warning us not to worry. It most likely won’t hit us, “too close” is not the same as “direct impact,” and besides, it won’t wipe out all life on Earth. It won’t even smack the moon. I imagine them scampering back out of sight hunched over gnawing on their fingertips. Or blissfully ordering another cup o’ Joe.
YU55 only 400 meters across, darn it. Way too small for the excited little boy in me who revels in blowing shit up. That’s the size of about four football fields lined up side-by-side. Big American football fields, too. Scientists advise us to imagine a giant bowling ball the size of an aircraft carrier, which, of course, doesn’t look a thing like a bowling ball sailing through space. It’s that big. And there were bigger ones once upon a time. And many more still out there.
The one that smashed into what’s called the Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico today to exterminate most of life on the planet including the dinosaurs was about 25 times longer and over 15,000 times more volume. Still, I can’t help but wonder if today’s my last day on Earth. At least I got to wish my wife “Happy Birthday” this morning. As I’m still a mammal with a reptile brain, I got urges to satisfy later tonight! Especially before we go extinct.
Giant comets and asteroids heavily bombarded our beautiful Planet Earth over many millions of years. Must’ve looked like a most unpleasant case of poxified acne. Then again we look up into the night sky and think our Moon is beautiful and drives us all mad with murderous lust. It be them Extraterrestrial Space Aliens messin’ wit us, I tell ya, implantin’ monkey minds, lizard brains, and psilocybin mushroom brains in us once upon a long time ago. Even so, at least 70 giant craters from flying space behemoths still pock our planet. These huge craters are all over 10 km in size. The oceans most likely cover many more. Erosion including biospheric repair most likely wore down the older or softer craters. Our biggest surviving crater is over 300 km in width inside South Africa.
At approximately 3:28 pm today, November 8, YU55 will be about 324,600 km (201,700 mi) close to us. That’s about the same time I pick up my youngest daughter at her bus stop. Hmmn, these scientists sure had great fun describing various horrific scenarios just in case ol’ YU55 fails to overcome Earth’s gravity fields: a 4,000 megaton blast! 7.0 earthquakes! Tsunamis 70 feet or higher! Cities in ruins! Forests in flames! A giant, green, people-eating amoeboid octopus crawling out of it ululating at us in what sounds like…oh no…Richard Wagner’s Gotterdammerung! Aaaiiieyah!
Well, just for my fun I take a peek at one of my favorite alternative websites devoted to weirdness and sure enough, someone claiming to be an engineer demonstrates rate of decay of the asteroid’s distance relative to Earth accelerated and is much faster than NASA declared. As he reanalyzed the data he concluded that oh no, YU55 at its closest approach will only be a mere 3,904 miles away from our planet. Which means WAAF’d, if you catch my drift.
Well, it’s been over 30 years since the last little-big asteroid swung “too close” to Earth. This one will most likely scoot on by and my wife will have to settle for lesser fireworks. Apparently recent sky surveys estimate about 700,000 giant asteroids in the main asteroid belt and millions of smaller ones. There are more space rocks roaming the solar system both inside and outside the belt as well as enormous numbers of comets. The asteroid to watch out for, however, is a city killer. The monster rock Apophis will swing by Earth in early 2013. Apophis will continue out and circle back. The rock is on a near-collision course inside Luna’s orbit, too, and was thought due April 13, 2029. That’s only 15 days before my 70th birthday. Then the Russians recalculated to grimly demonstrate Apophis would swing back around in a tighter loop on Friday, April 13, 2039 to impact Earth somewhere along a line stretching across the Middle East to South America and West Africa. Fireworks and giant tsunamis!
Today, however, is the 8th of November, I must remember, remember. My Beloved takes another spin upon her Wheel of the Year.
“Kristina!” I shout again as she grins back with soft twinkles in her eyes. “Happy Birthday to YOU!”
IAU Staff. “MPEC 2005-Y47 : 2005 YU55,” The International Astronomical Union: Minor Planet Center, 2005. <http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/mpec/K05/K05Y47.html>.
NASA Staff. “Comet/Asteroid Protection System (CAPS): Preliminary Space-Based System Concept and Study Results,” NSS, the National Space Society. <http://www.nss.org/resources/library/planetarydefense/2005-CometAsteroidProtectionSystem(CAPS)-NASA.pdf>.
Staff. Multiple short articles. Asteroid Apophis: Asteroid Apophis is coming: The Official Asteroid Apophis Site. <http://asteroidapophis.com/>.
Tate, Karl. “Huge Space Rock 2005 YU55 Sneaks Within Moon’s Distance (Infographic), Space.com. <http://www.space.com/13512-huge-space-rock-2005-yu55-sneaks-moon-distance-infographic.html>.
TomServo. “YU55 Closer Than JPL Indicates?” Above Top Secret. <http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread773044/pg1>.
Urry, Meg. “Earth’s close encounter with an asteroid,” CNN.com. <http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/08/opinion/urry-asteroid-earth-risk/index.html>.
Wikipedia Image. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(308635)_2005_YU55#/media/File:2005YU55-20111107.jpg>.
Yeomans, Donald K., Site Manager. “Inner Solar System Orbit Diagrams,” Jet Propulsion Laboratory-CIT/NASA. <http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/?ss_inner>.
William Dudley Bass
November 8, 2011
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.