By James W. Astrada
Asteroids have always been a concern for Earth due to many reaching close to our orbit. After calculations and automated system programs run, there have been over 7,075 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered (census as of May 2010). Some go unnoticed and fly by close, however not enough to make headline news. If asteroids were to hit a populous Earth now, even small asteroids (as large as 46m across) could have the effect of a thermonuclear bomb. Many asteroids have been the subject of concern, but one discovered by Spanish stargazers to pass by Earth recently has many scientists speculating a problematic future. A small asteroid named 2012 DA14, is said to pass close to the Earth’s orbit on February 2013 causing some panic about the elimination of all life. With an already alarming concern of the 2012 Mayan apocalypse scenario, an asteroid might add to the mass hysteria taking place. According to NASA scientists, they have assured that this asteroid will not end all life, however, it might cause some considerable damage the next time in comes in contact with Earth around 2020. The European Space Agency also assured the media that this “space rock” would whiz by at a distance of 24,000km (close than any commercial satellites) and that the next time it came around it could be a problem. One scientist Jamie Norman, one of the many who discovered the asteroid, had the following to say about its orbit concerning Earth:
“A preliminary orbit calculation shows that 2010 DA14 has a very Earth-like orbit with a period of 366.24 days, just one more day than our terrestrial year and it ‘jumps’ inside and outside of the path of Earth two times per year.”
The concern about this asteroid was that even though it regularly traveled along the neighborhood of our planet, it remained undetected until now due to its small size of 50m and its unusual orbit. How many other asteroids that could cause potential damage go unnoticed near Earth? Even Norman concurred that even though relatively small, an asteroid this size could cause the Earth considerable damage if it smashed into it. To make matters worse, the ESA calculates that about over half a million undiscovered near-Earth objects are looming overhead. According to the ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) office, projects to develop a system of automated telescopes are underway to spot possible threats at least three weeks before the closest approach to Earth.
Can the population believe scientists and their calculations with accuracy? Since the 1950s, science has been looked on as positive advancement for human beings to lead them into the future prepared for whatever comes our way. It was trusted, considered to be “error proof” and more than 90% of the mass believed whatever was presented to them by science. In the 21st century however, science has been the target of speculation by the certain media outlets and not trusted entirely by the public population. Many subjects like vaccines, climate change, and stem cell research have been attacked and have undermined trust within the science community. With the internet, a common person has access to information from all over the globe. Many opinions that do not coincide with established science have challenged and even gained publicity over the years. Although many consider them “conspiracies,” some may hold water when it comes to subjects like UFOs, alternative medicines, cures for man made diseases, GMO utilization within monocultures, food, and the dangers of what it can do to the human body, HAARP weapon and its use on the public population and atmospheric capabilities, black budget programs, etc.. Why would the people want to believe government agencies like NASA whom is know for airbrushing out certain unexplained phenomena from their photos (i.e Mars, Saturn and the Voyager missions, The Sun)? A diversified opinion with research is needed yes, but with mass hysteria already within the structure of society concerning “end times,” would this be a wise move to release this kind of information? JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories) stated that 2012 DA14 would make its approach around 19.26 GMT on February 15th. Will people be watching the sky in fear or in awe? As stated before, this asteroid would cause serious damage if it struck the Earth even though it is only 150ft across. David Honan from Big Think even suggested building a spacecraft to bump the asteroid off course to eliminate the 2020 threat. The project itself if considered would take at least two years to develop; plenty enough time for now. How can we be so certain though? How do we know that these calculations for the 2013 encounter will hold water? Scientists claim their accurateness when it comes to research, however as a scientist myself, this is far from the truth. Even with the most accurate research, there exists a small margin of error. Not to sound like an apocalypse nut, when doing research for near-Earth asteroids colliding into Earth, the term accurate is not something to be taken lightly. I’m sure that NASA scientists are reviewing their work to check any anomalies before they cause even more panic. David Yeomans, the manager for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL, stated that the 2020 encounter would be determined only when the data from the 2013 approach takes place. As for now, established scientists, astronomers are sure that this asteroid will miss us although they do not have the orbit pinned down. They even went as far to assure that the orbit of 2012 DA14 around the Sun will be no closer than 3.2 Earth radii on February 15th, 2013. I understand their reluctance due to the mass hysteria that might form, but still some are saying that this asteroid will bring trouble, and many are convinced. The only response to both sides of the argument is to wait until the actual event. Does that mean just incase of a slight marginal error, people should be prepare for impact? Do we have to call upon a Bruce Willis-type character like in Armageddon to save us from the half a million threats we could possibly encounter over the next 10 years? I highly doubt it, but doesn’t mean we should not be investigative and do our own research. With sensitive subjects like these, it is hard to make accurate assurances. If the fates allow us to survive the Mayan predictions and this “doomsday” asteroid, it is safe to assume then that humans still have a purpose on this planet no? Like everything else in life, we have to wait and see….
Bigthink.com/re-envision-Toyota-blog/asteroid-2012-da14-wont-kill-us-yet-but-ought-to-scare-us-tinto-action. March 7th 2012.
Brid-Aine Parnell. “Newly discovered asteroid will not ANNIHILATE THE EARTH Well, not for a while anyway.” The Register UK, March 15th 2012.
Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra in Spain (www.minor planets.org/OLS/)
©James Astrada 2012