Month: July 2019

We’ve been warned by an asteroid. The next one might hit.

Larry Kummer, Editor Science & Nature 30 July 2019

Summary: We have had several near-misses – asteroids passing close by with little warning from our sensors. This reminds us that asteroid and comet impacts have changed the course of life on Earth, and will again unless we stop them. Which we will, eventually, either when we go deeper into space – or after we are hit. This post discusses this risk and what steps we can take now to better prepare. Perhaps it is humanity’s role to defend the planet.

“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!”
— Science fiction author Larry Niven, as quoted by Arthur C. Clarke.

Asteroid approaching EarthAsteroid approaching Earth

We can’t say that we weren’t warned

WaPo: “‘It snuck up on us.’ Scientists stunned by ‘city-killer’ asteroid that just missed Earth.

How much would an asteroid impact hurt?

Even a small asteroid could devastate a city. What would impacts of different sizes do to your community? See the stunning results at Purdue U’s Impact Earth website. A presentation by NASA’s David Kring gives examples and consequences of impacts.

How likely is an impact? One could hit tomorrow.

The U.S. Government’s sensors recorded at least 556 meteors entering the atmosphere (fireballs, technically bolides) from 1994-2013. The largest in this record was a 20 meter asteroid near Chelyabins in central Russia on 15 February 2013 (details here), an explosion equivalent to 440- 500 kilotons of TNT.

The size of the dots on this NASA map represents the meteor’s optical radiant energy. The smallest dot on the map is 1 billion Joules (1 GJ), the equivalent of roughly 5 tons of TNT. The dots for 100, 10,000 and 1,000,000 GJ convert to 300 tons, 18,000 tons and one million tons of TNT. The Hiroshima blast was equivalent to 15,000 tons.

NASA map of bolide eventsNASA map of bolide events

Scientists have accumulated enough data to estimate the odds of impacts from space.

“Every day Earth is bombarded with more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles from space. About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere, creating a spectacular fireball (bolide) event as the friction of the Earth’s atmosphere causes them to disintegrate – sometimes explosively.

“Studies of Earth’s history indicate that about once every 5,000 years or so on average an object the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage. Once every few million years on average an object large enough to cause regional or global disaster impacts Earth. Impact craters on Earth, the Moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.

“Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona, is evidence of the impact with Earth’s surface of a 50-meter asteroid about 50,000 years ago. Impact of the metal-rich object released energy equivalent to a 10 megaton explosion and formed a 1.2 kilometer-diameter crater.” {Source: NASA.}

The National Research Council published a typically magisterial analysis of this threat: “Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys & Hazard Mitigation Strategies“ (2010). Here are the numbers, comforting or terrifying, depending on your perspective. Thirty-five million years ago, a 5-8 km impactor blasted out the Popigai crater – at the time of the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event. The dinosaurs were killed by an object 11-81 km in diameter.

Frequency of asteroid impact on Earth, by size of object.Frequency of asteroid impact on Earth, by size of object.

Books and films about how this happens and how we respond

Stories about collisions with space objects go back to the 19thC. Perhaps the best story about doom from the sky is When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer (1933). Earth is hit by a rogue planet. But there is good news!

An example of an optimistic science-fiction story in this genre is Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (1973). A city is destroyed. Humanity says “never again” and creates Project Spaceguard – sending us into space. An ounce of prevention is worth …etc.

Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1977) is gripping disaster porn about a comet hitting Earth. “Cities were turned into oceans; oceans turned into steam. It was the beginning of a new Ice Age and the end of civilization. But for the terrified men and women chance had saved, it was also the dawn of a new struggle for survival.”

Hollywood has given the inspiring stories about humanity defending the world against doom from space.

What can we do to prepare?

“Find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them.”
NASA’s Grand Challenge, 18 June 2013.

The Apollo program burned billions of dollars) but did little for America. Since then, the manned space program has done even less. The reason is simple: we lacked a good reason to put people in space. An asteroid or comet will eventually provide the motivation – either to prevent another impact or mitigate its effects. We have the technology and money to begin preparations.

Here are the four kinds of space threats, with warning times ranging from decades to days. Buying warning time is the key to preventing impacts or minimizing their damage, but it will take time to build the necessary sensor systems. As a first step, in 2016 NASA created the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Its staff supervises NASA’s programs to detect and track potentially hazardous objects, issues notices of close passes and warnings of any detected potential impacts, and coordinates the US government’s efforts to prepare for impact threats. See their website, which has a wealth of information.

Other nations have similar programs. NASA is a member of the International Asteroid Warning Network.

What happens after we detect an object on a collision course with Earth? A presentation by NASA’s Dan Mazanek describes deflection strategies. This NASA video shows what a mission to intercept a threatening space object might look like.

The longer the warning time and the better the preparations, the higher the odds of success. Here are some ways to defend Earth: a Gravity Tractor, a Kinectic Impactor, and a Blast Deflection. This graphic shows which works best for various combinations of warning time and asteroid size. For short warning times, we can use only what we have ready to launch.

NRC - asteroid mitigation measuresNRC - asteroid mitigation measuresFrom the NRC report (2010). Graphic by Tim Warchocki. Copyright © NAS.

A last note about these threats

“Estimates of the frequency of space-rock strikes are just estimates, and may not tell us anything about when the next impact will occur – it could be an eon, it could be tomorrow. Floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis are sure to happen more frequently, but humanity will survive these events; we might not survive an impact from space. Meanwhile, nothing can be done to prevent earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. But space strikes appear to be entirely avoidable, and not necessarily with “massive repositioning of government funding.” A fraction of the money NASA wants to waste on a moon base would likely be sufficient.”

— By Gregg Easterbrook in The Atlantic, September 2008.

Impact of comet or asteroidImpact of comet or asteroid

For More Information

As a great starting point, see The Asteroid Day website. Especially this six-article series by Rusty Scheweickart (astronaut, aeronautical engineer, and fighter pilot). To learn about asteroids and the defense against objects from space, see their education page. If you prefer videos, see them here.

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about shockwave events, about NASA, about shockwaves, and especially these…

Why do we keep getting hit by these things?

Newton's ClockNewton's ClockAvailable at Amazon.

The solar system is not in equilibrium. To learn why I recommend the brief and clearly written Newton’s Clock: Chaos in the Solar System by Ivars Peterson. From the publisher …

“Peterson explains a mystery that has fascinated and tormented astronomers and mathematicians for centuries: are the orbits of planets and other bodies stable and predictable or are there elements affecting the dynamics of the solar system that defy calculation? It is one of the most perplexing, unsolved issues in astronomy, with each step toward its resolution-from Newton’s clocklike mathematical models to the astonishing work of super computers exposing additional uncertainties and deeper questions about the stability of the solar system.

Newton’s Clock describes the development of celestial mechanics – from the star charts of ancient navigators to the great Renaissance scientists; from the crucial work of Poincare to the startling, sometimes controversial findings and theories made possible by modern mathematics and computer simulations. Equal parts science and history, the book shows how the exploration of the solar system has taken us from clocklike precision into chaos and complexity.”

via Watts Up With That?

July 31, 2019 at 04:30PM

Changes In Attitude – Changes In Latitude

Taking the average of all GHCN stations in Western Europe, there has been about 8F (4.4C) warming since 1895.

This has corresponded with a southward move of about four degrees average station latitude .

The rule of thumb is that one degree latitude corresponds with 1C change in temperature.

Throw in massive UHI effects, and it is pretty safe to say that we have no idea what European temperature trends are.

via The Deplorable Climate Science Blog

July 31, 2019 at 04:27PM

Jet Setting Prince Harry Only Wants Two Kids (To Save The Planet!)

By Paul Homewood


Come back Monty Python!





Could this be the same wally who has just travelled to Sicily (by foot?) to lecture a bunch of hypocritical billionaires (who flew there in a fleet of private jets) about climate change?


Prince Harry has added to the hot air at Google Camp — by giving a barefoot speech at the billionaire summer party in Sicily about the need to save the environment, Page Six has learned.

A source said the Duke of Sussex showed up at the super-secret three-day event to give an impassioned lecture about saving nature to a crowd of A-list celebrities and power brokers, many of whom arrived in gas-guzzling private jets and are staying on enormous mega yachts.

The prince covered the same material he talked about in an interview with British Vogue this week, where he said he planned to have no more than two children with wife Meghan Markle, the source said.

“Two, maximum!” he told renowned British anthropologist Jane Goodall while chatting about the deterioration of the planet.

Up to 200 celebrities have descended on the island of Sicily, chartering 114 private jets to get there and tooling around on Maseratis between staying on megayachts worth up to $400 million, according to Italian press reports.

The three-day event is ironically focused on climate change, but the world’s rich and famous will also discuss human rights, politics and online privacy.

It’s unclear how much time the attendees will sped discussing their own effect on the environment, with The Post calculating their flights alone would pump at least 784,000 kilograms of CO2 into the air.

The attendees were also photographed tooling around the island in gas-guzzling, high-end SUV’s.

The billionaire creators of Google have invited a who’s who of A-list names — including President Barack Obama, Katy Perry, Naomi Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio and Diane von Furstenberg for the mega-party, now in its seventh year. 

Or the same Prince of Wallies who thinks nothing of using private jets to attend showbiz parties, or whose wife flew to New York did the same a few months ago for her lavish baby shower?


Sometimes the Royal Family need to travel by air to fulfil public duties, but Harry and Meghan are taking the piss.

If they really want to set an example, live like the rest of us. Otherwise, stop telling us how we should live our lives.


July 31, 2019 at 03:45PM

Record low temps in Oklahoma and Texas

Funny how ‘hottest year evah’ assertions keep popping up when so many places are reporting record cold.

Thanks to Jack Hydrazine for this link

The post Record low temps in Oklahoma and Texas appeared first on Ice Age Now.

via Ice Age Now

July 31, 2019 at 02:30PM