Go On B’y: No One’s Keeping an Eye Out for Asteroids, and They Keep Just Missing Us

"On average, there should be 91 deaths per year from asteroid strikes."

On August 27th, an asteroid called QA2 missed clipping the Earth “by about three times as far away from Earth as our farthest satellites.” What’s scarier still is that we never saw it coming. And if that sounds too rare to worry about, well, on Sept. 7th, another asteroid got “exceptionally close” to nailing us, and we only noticed it coming  with less than 48 hours to prepare.

According to an article in Popular Mechanics, “There aren’t a lot of people looking for potentially dangerous asteroids.” NASA has been tasked with “finding 90 percent of asteroids 450 feet or larger by 2020,” but that raises so many questions like “why only 90%” and “what about 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020?” Two almost hit us without warning in the last month alone. And in 2012, a big asteroid named BX34 only missed us by 60,000 KMs. 

Worse still, NASA is “nowhere close to that goal” because they’re under-funded, and because telescopes that exist right now simply can’t help us. It’ll be years before telescopes that can detect asteroids of this size come to market and go online.

And even when they do come online, so what: smaller asteroids will come zipping in undetected by them, because they’re so small, but not too small to do damage. In 2013, a “small” asteroid killed 1,500 people in Russia. It was only about 50 feet wide.

Russia has particularly bad luck in being an asteroid landing pad. In 1908, an asteroid levelled a forested area cratering 1600 sq km in its wake. Had that hit a populated area like New York , 3.2 million people would have died, and nearly 4 million would have been injured.

Small asteroids, 5-10 meters in diameter, find their way to earth about once a year, and they hit with roughly the same impact as the A Bomb dropped on Hiroshima in WW2. Yet somehow most of these small asteroid strikes go unnoticed. Likely because they land in the ocean. (Water covers 70% of the earth’s surface.)

The airburst from a 25-meter asteroid would be like 65 Hiroshima bombs. Once they reach the 1KM zone, we’re talking global catastrophe, like the one that hit Mexico 65 million years ago and took out all the dinosaurs.

The inevitability of an asteroid hitting the earth has produced at least one paper from the US National Research Council that declares, “On average, there should be 91 deaths per year from asteroid strikes.”

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2 Comments

  • “why only 90%”

    If they got on the CBC and claimed they found 100%, who would believe them? How ‘on earth’ would they confidently be able to say they found 100% of asteroids floating around out in space? 90% is a nice round number, and leaves room for “oops, didn’t see that one – sorry New York”.

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