One-Two Punch And Both Miss

I wrote recently on asteroid 2007 WD5, which is on a near collision course with Mars. Did you know that 2007 TU24 had astronomers concerned for a bit? This is from Jan. 20th:

Asteroid 2007 TU24 has NASA concerned. A former colleague of mine is now a contract worker for NASA who develops and maintains the software applications for the Solar System Dynamic simulator and other NASA applications. He called me last night to inform me that NASA has there full focus and attention on this asteroid. All software applications support staff have been directed to devote their time specifically to running solutions on this Near Earth Object. They are running solutions with different inputs and the results are so close to direct impact that NASA has decided not to update the online simulator with these results. When you look at the current solution online the last orbit determination parameter is from January 1, 2008. This data is 11 days old.

Close, fortunately, only counts in darts, horseshoes and atomic bombs. Phil Plait set the record straight later today.

This is interesting: an asteroid named 2007 TU24 will pass roughly 560,000 kilometers (330,000 miles) from the Earth on January 29, 2008. That’s close enough to be interesting, but far enough not to worry about it. Funny coincidence: that’s almost the same time 2007 WD5 will pass very close to Mars. The odds of a Mars impact are still not zero, but there is no chance at all of TU24 hitting us.

330,000 miles is one third again farther away than the moon.

Proving once again that fear itself is something to fear, The Bad Astronomer notes how much nonsense is floating about the web about the rock. In a second post, he exposes more of it.

Well, there is more of that garbage floating around You Tube, this time from user “TU24dotORG”. The video in question is full of what I can politely call inaccuracies. The basic premise is that this asteroid, which will pass our planet by quite some distance on January 29, may cause all kinds of havoc on Earth. Why? Well, because they say so.

What follows is a little destructive – of TU24dorORG’s ideas. Phil can be so merciless sometimes.

What’s truly interesting about TU24 has been our reaction to it. What reaction, you say? Exactly.

Had it actually been on a collision course, we found it much, much to late to do anything but issue warnings. It would not have wrecked the planet or anything like that (an asteroid of similar size hit an unoccupied portion of Siberia in 1908). But depending on where it hit, it could have been devastating.

There was no chance of redirecting it (no time!) and no chance that nuclear weapons would have done much except make a few smaller rocks out of one large one, all of which would have hit in the same area anyway. Seems we’ve done a decent job of tracking the really big rocks out there. It’s the smaller ones like TU24 and WD5 we still have to worry about.

Is there any chance that this could be moved up a few notches on the priority list? Anyone? Bueller?

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Space

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