A couple of shots in the cosmic shooting gallery

Quite likely, most people in the US and around the world could care less about today’s fly-by of asteroid 2012 DA14. Today’s meteor burst over Russia is another story.  It is important to state that these two events are completely unrelated.  Purely coincidental that they should happen on the same day.  One of them, we knew about in advance, and there is TV coverage to go with it.  The other one completely took us by surprise.

If 2012 DA14 has any chance of hitting at all, the earliest opportunity will be in 2080. And the chances are 1 in 4,762,000.  (Orbital and impact info)  Today, around 11:25am PST (2:25pm EST / 19:25 UTC), it is making a close approach at 17,500 miles (27,600 km) above the Earth’s surface. Fortunately, it is well clear of the orbit of geosynchronous communication satellites. JPL has announced that NASA Television will cover the event.  (Live coverage at: NASA TV and JPL Ustream)

A few hours before its arrival, a meteor hit the atmosphere of the Earth over Russia’s Urals region.  A few hundred people were injured and there was some broken glass.  The Earth’s atmosphere was thick enough to cause the meteor to burst before it could hit the ground.  The resulting shock wave caused the injuries and property damaged that followed.  (CNN story)  Various sources report the original size of the rock to be about 10 tons.

Below is amateur video caught of the meteor entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

In fact, the Earth is swimming in a cosmic shooting gallery.  How many bullets or pellets are swimming around with our planet’s name on them?  Our catalog of asteroids has dramatically increased in recent years.  Scott Manley, a hybrid of astronomer and game nut, has put the discoveries to music.  Note the red dots are the ones that are potentially hazardous to Earth.  The dots are very small.  You may not be able to distinguish them on a small screen.  You will notice a vast difference when you play the video on a screen with HD resolution.

Marcia Smith, a respected analyst who writes SpacePolicyOnline.com has posted her own commentary regarding the two events.  She also provides a pointer to Phil Platt, of “Bad Astronomy” fame, who is collecting photos as fast as he can.

I’m continuing to collect notes about near Earth objects, particularly asteroids, and what we might do about it (as one of my spare time activities).

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