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Comets, meteors and asteroids, oh my!

By From page A2 | February 27, 2013

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 [email protected]

C.W. Plunkett

C.W. Plunkett


Discussion | 28 comments

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  • G-ManFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:57 am

    Tell me you were joking about the "lack of funding part"..btw..this is happening an a "killer rock" could appear out of nowhere..andtherwe's not enough "funding" or technology to stop it..unless we can track down Bruce Willis...I enjoyed the article in that it echoes man's totally naïve and anthropocentric ways...

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  • Guess Who?February 27, 2013 - 7:05 am

    Hey Plunkett new idea for a column....Polyps, Irritable Bowel, and Hemorrhoids, oh my!.....about Colon health...seeing G-Man's post inspired me to think of this, strange growth that he is.

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  • G-ManFebruary 27, 2013 - 9:01 am

    You're just saying that to hurt me...

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  • StRFebruary 27, 2013 - 9:15 am

    Actually I do not like being mean....It is one thing to take out a target cleanly and efficiently....but did not one time you say that someone would just mess me up bad ala Gabby Giffords...did not one time you tell someone to use razor blades in a warm bath?....And for the record I would never just disappear without telling friends and family....I would never hurt my family ie..suicide self and family....actually I will not commit suicide, although I have kind of hinted to leave the bad people the option of making it look like suicide, since I do not want to be taken alive. I think it just proves that I can get in a good insult in a slightly more gentle manner. But no I do not like hurting anyone, I usually really do feel guilty afterwards.

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  • StRFebruary 27, 2013 - 9:33 am

    But to stroke your ego, I think that we do all find you fasinating, the dexterious twists and turns of your thought patterns, the rapid recall of detail ect.... The multiplicitous connections you so quickly are cognitive of. Your IQ makes you a supreme example of rapid fire viciousness when you so desire. There is no way the rest of us can truly compete. But my apologies if I did really hurt your feelings.

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  • C.W. PlunkettFebruary 27, 2013 - 1:56 pm

    I think that G-man and STR should kiss and make up.... just sayin'...

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  • C.W. PlunkettFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:03 pm

    And G-Man... no joke about the lack of funding. There are fewer professional astronomers dedicated to scouring the skies for "dinosaur killing" space rocks than there are people working at your local grocery store. True story! However, there are literally thousands of amateur astronomers around the globe who are dedicated to searching the stars, but alas, theyre using their own funds and have an even more limited financial resources. Pointing a telescope up at the night sky to find a tiny meteroid is really like pointing that telescope at a haystack in search of that proverbial needle. And if it's coming at us from the direction of the sun (which the one that just exploded over Russia did) it's virtually impossible to see... Roiks!!

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  • Sobbin' BluesFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:24 pm


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  • Poor little FoolFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:32 pm


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  • I Am Married w/KidFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:37 pm


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  • G-ManFebruary 28, 2013 - 2:10 am

    My point exactly..it's all but futile..of course that shoudn't preclude looking..but no worries..you'll never hear the one that gets you

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  • Tammy's Bein' BadFebruary 27, 2013 - 10:18 am


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  • The Tractors - Baby Likes To Rock ItFebruary 27, 2013 - 10:25 am


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  • But be careful what U stand 4 THEY lieFebruary 27, 2013 - 1:43 pm


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  • .I Wish it Would Rain DownFebruary 27, 2013 - 1:54 pm


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  • Naughty Pennies from HeavenFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:01 pm


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  • And More Pennies from HeavenFebruary 27, 2013 - 2:13 pm


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  • C.W. PlunkettFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    Thanks for the column idea, STR... I also like the Mad Magazine idea, although I doubt SERIOUSLY that they'd want anything written by me... hahaha! Anyway, keep 'em coming!

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  • MAD MAGAZINE CriticFebruary 27, 2013 - 3:46 pm

    You are too good for the likes of MAD MAGAZINE...Your writing is much too classy for a pulp puplication such as MAD MAGAZINE. They would not be up to the intellectual challenge of comprehending the true majesty and deep philosophical content of your work. Those SHMUCKS at MAD MAGAZINE got no class, like you do Plunkett!

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  • MAD MAGAZINE CriticFebruary 27, 2013 - 4:00 pm

    I will review the MAD MAGAZINE current pathetic attempt at humor Issue #519 February 2013 -- [Titled - MAD The 20 Dumbest People, Events, And Things 2012] and get back to you. Y because..THIS IS IMPORTANT to criticize those GOOF OFFs at MAD MAGAZINE!

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  • MAD MAGAZINE CriticFebruary 27, 2013 - 4:16 pm

    MAD MAGAZINE tries to be socially relevent...get this from The New York Daily News....Barack Obama, Mitt Romney make Mad Magazine's 'The 20 (yes, do it I dare you to google it).....those LOONs at MAD MAGAZINE do not realize that teenage boys are not interested in SKANKY US POLITICS. What losers those CLOWNS at MAD MAGAZINE really are....what were they thinking?

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  • Keep it comin' LoveFebruary 27, 2013 - 6:27 pm


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  • OK I will pay MAD MAGAZINE a complimentFebruary 28, 2013 - 11:30 am

    I really like how the squirrel is drawn on the cover of Issue #519 February 2013 -- [Titled - MAD The 20 Dumbest People, Events, And Things 2012] So artistic and funny!

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  • NFSD - Turkish CultureFebruary 27, 2013 - 8:29 pm

    Kolbastı is a popular Turkish dance. It was originally created in the 1930s in the seaport of Trabzon on the Black Sea coast of north-eastern Turkey. Loosely translated, 'kolbastı' means 'caught red-handed by the police.'............. According to legend, the name comes from nightly police patrols of the city to round up drunks, who made up a song with the lyrics: 'They came, they caught us, they beat us' (in Turkish: 'Geldiler, bastılar, vurdular')...........In the past few years this dance has grown very popular and is spreading in popularity outside the region. These days this dance is mostly used for weddings or by youngsters who like to show off and attract girls.............. Kolbastı never disappeared from Trabzon. It's always been part of local culture. What's new, though, is that people from outside the region have taken to the dance.

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  • Why Can't We All Just Get Along?February 27, 2013 - 8:39 pm


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  • Blue Star Folk Dance 3February 27, 2013 - 8:45 pm


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  • StR.....JBITOI....and like to "ramble"March 02, 2013 - 9:07 am

    JBITOI = Just because I thought of It...You know the part I liked best about Bloom County?....It was FUNDAMENTALLY ORAL BILL THE CAT....now that's funny!

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  • 1984) The Time - Jungle LoveMarch 02, 2013 - 4:29 pm


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