The Big Rock Heading Our Way

Feb 15 2013 @ 7:54am

But first, holy shit:

The footage was taken last night in the Urals, where over 1,000 were injured from the impact. The meteor was likely related to the asteroid 2012 DA14, which is scheduled to barely miss our planet today. Phil Plait provides a primer:

[E]xcluding actual impacts, 2012 DA14 will be still only be the eighth-closest approach by a known asteroid on record. The closest on record without actually hitting us was 2011 CQ1, which, in 2011, passed us by about 5500 km (3300 miles)—less than Earth’s radius! It was only about a meter across, so even if it had hit us we would’ve gotten a spectacular fireball, but probably no actual damage.

However, this is the largest asteroid we’ve seen come this close. Even then, it’s only 50 meters across, which is small as asteroids go.

Update from a reader:

The meteor is “likely related to asteroid 2012 DA14″. This is untrue. In fact, they approached the Earth from completely different directions. See the statement from Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program: “This bolide event probably had nothing to do with the upcoming close Earth approach of asteroid 2012 DA14, which is due to pass closely (and safely) past the Earth at 19:24 GMT today [2:24 p.m. ET].” Yeomans added that the Russian bolide trail did not travel south to north as the asteroid will.

It won’t hit us, Plait argues, but it’s a sobering reminder of our weak NASA budget and our inability to deflect asteroids:

This threat is no joke. It’s quite real, and we need to take it seriously. We need more observatories watching the sky, and a plan in place in case we do see one with our number on it. Some new observatories will soon be coming online that will help. Also, both NASA and the privately-funded B612 Foundation have plans to launch space missions that can better look for near-Earth asteroids. B612 even has ideas on how to stop a potential impactor from ruining our day, too. I gave a TEDx talk on this very topic.

For more footage of that Russian meteor strike and its aftermath, including the sonic boom, go here.