Asteroid Near Earth Is “Disconcerting” For Experts

By: Ashley Olds - June 7, 2014

“What would you do if an asteroid were about to hit Earth?”

You know, there’s a lot of “doom-porn” circulating about this near-earth asteroid due to whiz by Sunday morning. And that’s alright; a little rational fear helps spur us into action so that we can seek a logical solution. So should you be scared out of your mind about asteroid 2014 HQ124?

Well, not about this one.

We have nothing to fear about this particular NEO (that just means “near earth object”) hitting us. The massive rock ball will whiz by with a berth of about 777,000 miles. However, it reminds the experts of just how vulnerable we are. As Bob Berman of the online Slooh community observatory explained:

“What’s disconcerting is that a rocky/metallic body this large, and coming so very close, should have only first been discovered this soon before its nearest approach.” Indeed, they didn’t even see it until April 23rd of this year. He went on to add, “If it were impact us, the energy released would be measured not in kilotons like the atomic bombs that ended World War II, but in H-bomb type megatons.”

That might sound extreme – but it makes sense. Remember Russia’s asteroid last year?

That strike, which left more than 1,200 people injured, was only about 50 to 60 feet wide. Can you imagine if it had been the size of a football stadium? Some others have tried to – and what they envisage of the aforementioned hypothetical H-bomb scenario would be wiped out metropolitan areas and a crater about 3 miles across. As predicted by asteroid impact expert Mark Boslough, of Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico: “An event like that would break windows over 100 kilometers away.” He also added:

“This one would definitely be catastrophic if it hit the Earth.”

So why didn’t we see it early enough?

Simply put, it’s harder to see smaller stuff – and space debris is no exception. Larger rocks can be observed early on. But when it comes to smaller asteroids that don’t line up neatly with the sun, we don’t see them so easily. What happens is they sometimes get less light (kind of like the moon’s phases), so they only are partially visible – or not at all – until they’re super close. So where can we get some light to see them? Well, there is one good solution. Much like “Predator” of the Sci Fi flick could locate Schwarzenegger’s character, we too can view this alien matter accelerating toward us by using infrared technology – in a telescope. This bad boy would sit between earth and the sun, generating a cosmic-collision course version of Google Earth, by mapping the paths of traveling rubble.

Great. So why don’t they just use one of those?

Well, they’re trying their hardest. For example, the guys over at B612 foundation are working on this telescope called Sentinel that they hope to launch by 2018.

That sounds like a really long time to be dodging cosmic bullets, doesn’t it?

Yeah, you’re right. It is. And that’s where the “solution” part we mentioned earlier comes in. If you get a little nervous when you see all these asteroid reports, you’re welcome to quell your fears by playing the video above and checking out what these heroic dudes are doing. After I did, I decided to give a little donation – mostly because I’m lazy and refuse to move from this pale blue dot on which I’m living.

I’ve grown quite fond of it and I hear the alternative worlds are fairly inhospitable.

“If I could get one million people to see that view of Earth, then I could just pass the hat and we could build Sentinel tomorrow.”
– Ed Lu (CEO/Co-founder, B612 Foundation and former NASA astronaut)

Image via Youtube

Ashley Olds

About the Author

Ashley OldsAshley enjoys pretending she knows how to do yoga and living in sweet denial about the worthlessness of her bachelor's degree. Stalk her on Twitter - if you can find her.

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  • Tuna

    That would certainly cause some climate change, and like climate there’s not thing one anyone can do about it!

  • Jesse

    Ashley – Predator starred Arny, not Sly…

    • author

      Haha! Wow. What a silly mistake… I’m going to edit it now.
      Thanks for catching that before someone far meaner did, Jesse – and thanks for reading!
      Have a beautiful day!

      • Jesse

        No worries – you do the same, and thanks for the article =)