Saturday, January 28, 2006

New Asteroid, 2006 BQ6, Might Pass Close to Earth (and I do mean CLOSE)


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Astronomers at Mt. Lemmon which is the mountain I lived next to when not on Kitt Peak when I was a child, spotted an asteroid which they calculate will pass very close to the earth. Really close.

From a science forum:
Asteroid 2006 BQ6 has a very tiny chance to hit Earth on Aug 1. Judging from the Palermo Scale of -2.8, the odds are about 1 in 20,000. The asteroid's trajectory is only known from 1.5 days of arc, and subsequent observations are likely to give better estimates and (what usually occurs) eliminate any possibility of a collison.

Just something interesting to watch at this stage...

Quote:
2006 BQ6

Notes: 2006 BQ6 was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Survey on the morning of 22 Jan. 2006 and was announced two days later, when it was posted by NEODyS as an impact risk.

NOTE: This object, estimated to be on the order of 425 meters in diameter, has a highly-preliminary impact solution for Aug. 1st this year. This solution is rated at the normal Torino Scale 0 ("likelihood of collision is zero, or so low as to be effectively zero") and has a relatively low Palermo Scale (PS) rating for a solution so soon for an object of this size, but still the non-zero possibility needs to be completely ruled out. Fortunately, 2006 BQ6 will remain in view and early risk assessments always change with further observation.

Packed designation: K06B06Q
NEODyS Clomon Assessment
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Years VI PS Cum PS Max T S Arc Days
2006-2072 7 -2.76 -2.78 0 1.545

Click here to see the path of the asteroid.

Here is the University of Arizona's meteor strike calculator.

Here is the Meteor Crater page. My grandfather, Edison Pettit, was one of the astronomers who decided this was a meteor strike rather than a volcano. My parents have a fairly large meteor which my grandfather tried to saw in half, using old equipment that broke down before sawing it in two, it weighs over 100lbs. I used to play with it when I was a child, running toys across the surface.

There was fierce debate about the moon's craters. Grandpa sided with the theory, they were from meteors and my father believed the dust on the moon might be pretty deep and maybe loose due to the low gravity. He worried the space capsule might sink in too deeply to extract again. When we sent men to the moon, there was no way of knowing, it was a big risk.

My grandfather made a blow-up photo of the moon at half dark/half light. It was over 8' tall and 4' wide, one of the biggest pictures of the moon outside of museums. I used to stand there and trace out the various impacts with my finger when very young. I grew up knowing the topography of the moon as well as the surrounding mountains we lived in or on.

I used to wonder about meteor impacts.

I have seen quite a few meteor passes thanks to living on places like Kitt Peak with no light interference and a very thin atmosphere. To this day, I have powerful lungs thanks to running around as a child on high mountains. Your voice is pitched higher there, too, so by the time I was 13, my voice accomodated this by dropping very low. I have a deep voice today, thanks to this.

As a teen, if I dressed appropriately, I could pass myself off as an adult due to my low voice abilities, something I exploited in the usual way (no need to ask! Pass the beer stein!). Anyway, we also studied volcanoes and my parents loved visiting volcanoes and nothing pleased them more than to figure out if a volcano, in the pre-satellite days, blew up and we noted it on the mountain tops by the passage of a sudden line of super high cirrus clouds.

I caught the clouds from one eruption as I walked out of my bedroom one afternoon, back in 1964. It was fun, spotting it.

If a celestial object does hit, it is very similar to a volcanic eruption: the further one is from it, the louder the boom. At over a thousand miles, one can hear it quite distinctly. When Krakatoa blew up, the sound traveled around the world three times, it was so loud! Next comes the high cirrus clouds and right behind the long, white broiling line of clouds comes the wind. The closer one is, the fiercer the wind. Winds of over 500 mph can happen. The debrie from the impact is very fine of one is far away but closer, things can get bitterly bad, fast. If it hits an ocean which is more likely, then we get tidalwaves that would dwarf the ones that hit us back last year. And of course, there would be many earthquakes, too.

Our ancestors saw all this. Meteor crater happened only 50,000 years ago. It wasn't that big an object, hitting us.

All my life, since I was so small, I was in a crib, my family has talked about this matter, namely, we fret about stellar objects hitting our planet. We know that in the middle ages, a meteor hit the moon and it turned red from the mantle of dust that covered the entire surface within minutes. The moon is still trembling from that impact, like a rung bell.

Carl Sagan loved to talk about this and like me, supported the space program for two reasons: to locate other lifeforms and star/planetary systems and to spot asteroids or meteors and deal with them before they deal with us! Back in the eighties, I frantically tried to redirect the funding for Star Wars over to space observatories and developing a better L-orbital flight system that is easy to launch so we can intercept these asteroids quickly.

Now we sit here like sitting ducks who can't duck. I hope this is a near miss, I hope it is a wake-up call. I really don't want to witness a meteor impact, thank you. Space, as my grandfather loved to say, isn't empty at all. And it has a lot of stuff that is dark and can't be seen unless it approaches the sun. And look at the Milky Way some night. The dark patches are vast, gigantic sheets of hard space dirt like asteroids, masses and masses of this stuff, huge, unimaginable amounts, so great, no starlight from the galactic core penetrates it. Our sun has bored a hole in this sort of dirt and much of it resides on the outer Kuiper belt in an unstable situation which is why pieces fall back into the planetary plane.

The ice and dust ones become comets. The hard iron ones are called asteroids. Both are exceedingly dangerous. When the comet that hit Jupiter during OJ mania summer, it didn't penetrate American's consciousness because we were distracted by dumb stuff. But I will assure you, the astronomers and scientists at all the observatories and JPL were amazed, flabbergasted and horrified as it bore into Jupiter's cloud cover, leaving massive holes that churned and burned for quite a long while. No one, absolutely no one expected this.

The holes were bigger than the planet earth and yet, it was all much smaller fragments of the original giant. My father calculated that if it hit us, there wouldn't be much left to talk about it unless one s a single celled creature.

By the way, growing up with astronomers, I had to deal with the emotional difficulties of thinking about the beginning and end of time, etc. This is why I have a cheerful disposition. Namely, if Lady Luck, the real ruler of the Universe, the one who rolls those dice and blindly blunders about, if She rolls snake-eyes, there isn't much to do. But if humans are very clever, they can tip the dice and foil her.

Only we are more destructive than She is! So all I can say is, roll them bones and give me good luck.
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