Friday, 15 February 2013

football pitch misses earth

asteroid passing the moon
The meteor DA14 missed the earth today, although to my surprise another completely different and undetected one hit Chelyabinsk in the Russian Urals, also today.

I'm not sure if these are the kind of things that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space actually worry about, being that it's no longer outer space by the time it hits the earth.

The report from their 55th session/644th meeting is available here including its discussion about creating a vision for outer space for Africa and ways to improve the security of outer space.

Oh, and curiously, a section about the right to self defence in outer space.

Yet with all 71 member countries involved in this and the no doubt considerable funding applied, it was still amateur astronomers that first spotted DA14. Equally, it's not clear that anyone noticed the meteor in Russia until it whizzed over a motorway and then crashed creating damage affecting around 1000 Russian citizens.

rashbre's Chelyabinsk meteorite sketch
Not counting any unexpected ones like Chelybinsk, the the next biggie isn't predicted until around 2029 or second time around in 2036. The reassuring view is that by the time it is due to hit someone(?) will have invented and implemented a way to handle it.

To avoid too many more embarrassing unnoticed asteroids, the same UN Committee has decided to run a "find an asteroid" competition. They are also working on a technical paper called "move an asteroid' aimed at deflecting a Near Earth Object with inventions such as a Gravity Tractor or white paint applied to the sun side of the asteroid. The latter would cause uneven heating to deflect the asteroid's path.

It might need a very big spray can though. It's good to know there are so many people thinking about this.

No comments: