The Phaserl


Asteroid Near Miss

by Pater Tenebrarum,

Hi Pumpkin!

Did you know that an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 2,000 feet is zipping by planet Earth this Saturday at a speed of roughly 78,000 mph at slightly more than the average distance between the earth and the moon (which is ~240,000 miles, the asteroid will be about 300,000 miles distant)? In astronomical terms this distance is less than a hair. You didn’t know?

Fear did no-one else until a few days ago. That’s when it was picked up by coincidence by one of the three telescopes that are regularly scanning for what is somewhat euphemistically referred to as “near-earth objects” (colloquially known as “genocidal killer asteroids”). Its name is the prosaic sounding “2015-TB-145” (we were vacillating between naming it “Goofy” and “Deathbringer”), but some scientists have in the meantime decided to call it “Spooky”, except for the NASA, which calls it “The Great Pumpkin”.

Luckily, the flight path predictions of asteroids rushing our way are on average a lot more reliable than the predictions of economists. Otherwise it would be high time for a few minutes of contemplative silence and prayer, just in case.

Why are we telling you this, dear readers? First of all, we often refer to asteroid strikes in these pages, mainly because we’re curious what the stock market would do if one them were to actually impact. Would it be a “sell the rumor, buy the news” event? Or would the market just streak to new highs right away? You have to admit, it is an interesting problem to think about.

Secondly, this near miss puts many things into perspective. If ole Pumpkin’s flight path were only a little bit different, it would have the potential to lay the AGW debate to rest forever. It would be a strong reminder that simply being born can be highly dangerous. It is thought that it is a good sight larger than the meteor that caused the Tunguska event in 1908 (which flattened 770 square miles of forest in Siberia after exploding some 3 to 6 miles above ground) – which was hitherto the largest impact event in recorded history.

It is far smaller though than the prehistoric asteroid that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago (that one was about 6 miles wide, traveled at a speed of around 70,000 mph and released the equivalent of 100 million megatons of TNT upon impact. When its tip touched the planet, its other end was still as high up in the atmosphere as the cruising altitude of most jet airplanes nowadays).

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