Just a few decades ago, most scientists thought the idea of asteroids crashing to Earth to be ludicrous. Today, this same idea is an accepted fact. Not only do asteroids fall to Earth, but more are being discovered every day. Yesterday, one of these newly-discovered asteroids just buzzed Earth. Coincidentally, this comes just days after NASA said that the near-Earth asteroid population was larger than previously thought.
Monday, asteroid 2012KP24, which is about 69 feet across, came within about 32,000 miles of Earth, well within the Moon’s orbit. Yesterday, asteroid 2012KT42 came within a mere 9,000 miles of Earth. In a fact that may be especially disconcerting to some, the time span between discovery and close approach for the second asteroid was only a day! Talk about next to no warning.
Now for the good news: the asteroids were small and even if either were to collide with the Earth, they may not even have been large enough to survive the descent through the atmosphere, burning up in a spectacular fireball instead. Still, though, the fact that an asteroid can sneak up on us out of space with only a few days notice is the troubling part of this whole situation.
It is a perfectly logical idea that an asteroid could, one day, destroy life as we know it on Earth. The good news is that scientists are busy developing plans to avert doomsday. The problem is this: in these doomsday prevention plans, the time frame for a response is typically, at the least, months, not days. With only a couple of days notice and with current technology, it would probably be impossible to do anything to save the planet and our civilization.
This fact alone validates the idea that it is perfectly reasonable to spend time and money looking for asteroids and comets that have the potential to strike our planet and threaten the human race.
Lastly, the weather is something to be considered when going to look at the night sky. Since astronomy always a weather-allowing pursuit, be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you.
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