Less than two weeks ago the paranoid Chicken Little would have surely had a fit, because things were literally falling out of the sky.
A meteor blasted through Earth’s atmosphere over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region, triggering an atomic bomb-sized shock wave that blew out windows and caused numerous injuries. The blast happened only hours before 2012 DA14 (a 150-foot-wide asteroid) came within 17,000 miles from Earth. How close is that? Here’s an idea, go look at the odometer of your car. Is it over 17,000 miles? Well then, it was that close!
Later that evening, another meteoroid lit up our California sky, signaling to some Bay Area residents that the end is near.
Naturally, NASA said that none of these events were related. Oh really? Personally, I’d like it if Maury Povitch had some DNA testing done on the suspects. Maybe the asteroid isn’t the smaller meteors’ baby-daddy, but I bet there’s a good chance they could be distant cousins.
The meteoroid that dazzled Bay Area residents was a relatively tiny one that burned up in our atmosphere, not making an impact on the surface at all.
The same can’t be said for the one in Russia. It was a meteor that officials say was almost 50 feet wide, almost 10,000 tons, and traveling at almost 40,000 mph. It blasted apart at roughly 15 to 30 miles above Earth, releasing the energy equivalent to almost 500 kilotons of TNT. Although there was no impact site, shock waves and small fragments damaged hundreds of buildings, shattered thousands of windows and injured more than 1,000 people.
Many Russians were confused. Some thought it was the end of the world, with possibly a Mayan connection. Some thought it was either a failed North Korean missile launch, or one of President Barack Obama’s wayward drone strikes, or even killer robots roaming the countryside. One CNN “news” anchor suggested that it was the result of global warming (insert laugh track here!).
It was the largest meteor blast since 1908. That blast happened in Russia, too, and is referred to as “The Tunguska Event.” It’s an event because some scientists still aren’t quite sure what caused it. Different theories range from the cause being a small asteroid, a comet, a meteor, a black hole, antimatter, a Nikola Tesla experiment gone awry, or the explosion of a wayward killer robot roaming the countryside. Fact is, the impact wasn’t even investigated until 1927 because Russia was going through a few little things like World War I and the Russian Revolution, followed by the Russian Civil War.
On a positive note, this most-recent blast did not kill anyone. It also didn’t cause any electrical and battery-operated appliances and automobiles to come to life with maniacal tendencies. Nor did it cause dead bodies to come to life, thereby initiating the impending zombie apocalypse.
If the larger asteroid that harmlessly whistled past our little blue planet had hit us, it would have been extremely bad. If it had hit an ocean, it would have triggered a global mega-tsunami. A direct hit on our city of Fairfield would have immediately vaporized us. A strike on a large metropolis like New York City or Tokyo would easily cause millions of deaths. And a direct hit on Washington, D.C., would cause . . . actually, that might’ve made things a little bit better, although I imagine any surviving Democratic congressmen would blame President George W. Bush and then immediately push for some sort of “asteroid control” policy.
The question that everyone wants to know is: Why didn’t they spot the incoming meteor that exploded over Russia sooner? The simple answer is that there isn’t enough funding. Most of the big dinosaur-killing space rocks have been detected. Almost 1,500 of the 30 meter-plus size have been detected, but the smaller ones can easily slip under the radar, so to speak. Or, to quote a scene from the movie “Armageddon”:
President: “We didn’t see this thing coming?”
Dan (Billy Bob Thornton): “Well, our object-collision budget’s a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3 percent of the sky, and beg’n your pardon sir, but it’s a big-a– sky.”
A big as-teroid indeed!
Reach C.W. Plunkett at firstname.lastname@example.org.