I read with interest the article in Saturday’s Nonpareil that told of an AP-NORC (National Opinion Research Center) poll that resulted in an urgent public concern with a potential collision with a near-earth orbiting asteroid (NEOA).
According to the article, a poll reflected respondents believing that asteroid and comet monitoring to be the No. 1 desired objective for the U.S. space program. I’m certain NASA has other thoughts about what should be No. 1.
I’ve written about these unseen and untracked objects before and they are still out there in space and could at some time and for some unknown reason suddenly pose a threat to the well-being of Earth and its inhabitants.
At the present time, there are more than 2,000 near-Earth orbiting asteroids, and no one knows for certain the potential danger they present, but they do know it is going to happen eventually at a “meeting at a crossroads in space.”
What are the possibilities of Earth getting struck by an asteroid? To some, the answer to that may seem somewhat dismal.
Our problem here on planet Earth is that we are like a sitting duck for some as yet undiscovered or unseen space rock to impact the surface. How large the object is and where the impact occurs is the deciding factor as to how cataclysmic it turns out to be.
I’ve been asked before, where these asteroids come from?
Between the planets Mars and Jupiter is a region called the asteroid belt filled with debris that no one seems to know exactly where it all came from.
They do know that this area in space is populated by no less than 1.5 million rocky objects of varying sizes from over 800 miles in diameter to some in the neighborhood of ½ mile wide and smaller.
As I said, what caused the asteroid belt to form is still a matter of conjecture but there are two popular theories: 1. The debris resulted from an ancient planetary collision, or 2. The material is what’s left of a 10th planet in our solar system that was never allowed to coalesce because of Jupiter’s intense gravitational effect on the material.
It’s amazing how what appears to be a simple activity will trigger the human brain to remember things in the past.
A case in point is the snowball fight I saw some kids having while I was driving down a neighborhood street last winter. It made me think about snowballs and the analogy that can be made between them and near-Earth orbiting asteroids.
After being blindfolded and pointed in the direction of a target by a friend, the person commences throwing snowballs. The friend stands nearby noting whether each throw hits or misses. Naturally, most are misses as each throw has a pretty small chance of hitting the target. But every now and then, the thrower will succeed and WHAM!
The analogy, of course, is that Earth is the target and the snowballs are the asteroids. We are extremely fortunate that the forces in outer space “throwing” rocks at us have come close but haven’t been successful in hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Let’s pray it stays that way.