Considering the background of Randall Munroe, the creator of the highly successful xkcd web comic, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. What we have is the creator, who used to work for NASA as a robotics engineer, receiving the honor of having an asteroid named after him. The title was bestowed by the International Astronomical Union, which is in charge of providing the name for celestial bodies such as Munroe’s asteroid. Again, considering Munroe’s previous career, and this scientific slant his comics take, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s still really cool, as is the comic that was created to mark the event, which can be seen at the top of this article.
I’m really touched. I spent all weekend telling everyone who wanted to listen (and probably some who didn’t) about the asteroid.
The first thing I did was try to figure out whether 4942 Munroe was big enough to pose a threat to Earth. I was excited to learn that, based on its albedo (brightness), it’s probably about 6-10 kilometers in diameter. That’s comparable in size to the one that killed the dinosaurs—definitely big enough to cause a mass extinction!
As you can see, 4942 Munroe is much bigger than an Imperial Star Destroyer, and if you’re not sure how big that is, the starship size comparison chart is here to help.
In case you’re wondering, 4942 Munroe is in orbit between Mars and Jupiter somewhere along the asteroid belt. According to the astronomers who monitor this kind of thing, the asteroid is not in any danger of falling out of its orbit, setting course for earth anytime soon.[Lead image courtesy of xkcd]