over Indonesia raises fears about Earth's defences
Chivers Telegraph, co.uk, 27 Oct 2009.
An asteroid that exploded in the Earth’s
atmosphere with the energy of three Hiroshima bombs this month has
reignited fears about our planet’s defences against space impacts.
The asteroid was around 20 meters across and hit the Earth's atmosphere
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
On 8 October, the rock crashed into the
atmosphere above South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The blast was heard by monitoring stations 10,000
miles away, according to a report by scientists at the University of Western Ontario. Scientists are concerned that
it was not spotted by any telescopes, and that had it been larger it
could have caused a disaster. The
estimated to have been around 10 metres (30ft) across, hit the
atmosphere at an estimated 45,000mph. The sudden deceleration caused it
to heat up rapidly and explode with the force of 50,000 tons of TNT.
Luckily, due to the height of the
explosion – estimated at between 15 and 20 km (nine to 12 miles) above
sea level – no damage was caused on the ground. However, if the object
had been slightly larger – 20 to 30 metres (60 to 90ft) across – it
could easily have caused extensive damage and loss of life, say
researchers. Very few objects smaller than 100 meters
(300ft) across have been spotted and catalogued by astronomers.
Tim Spahr, director of the Minor
Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, warned that it was
inevitable that minor asteroids would go unnoticed. He said: "If you
want to find the smallest objects you have to build more, larger
"A survey that finds all of the 20-metre
objects will cost probably multiple billions of dollars."
The fireball was spotted by locals in
Indonesia, and a YouTube video taken that day
"appears to show a large dust cloud consistent with a bright, daylight
fireball", according to the Ontario researchers. An asteroid or comet fragment around 60
meters across is believed to have been behind the Tunguska Event, a
powerful explosion that took place over Russia in 1908. The blast has
been estimated at equivalent to 10-15 million tons of TNT – enough to
destroy a large city.
White House is to develop a policy on the space object impact threat
by October next year.
So Why Don't We Care?
An explosion with the force of THREE
Hiroshima nuclear bombs exploded over Indonesia on October 8, 2009, and
yet it hardly made news. Had the same destructive energy been the result
of activity from a ‘rogue’ state, or a nuke of any country for that matter, it
would have dominated headlines around the world for days. So why don’t
For more than a decade now FAIR society been trying address that
exact question. We have compared the NEO phenomena to
disasters pointing out this is the only one we could actually do
something about. Showing how ‘authorities’ often get it wrong as in the
Asian tsunami, when governments in the region predicted it wasn't due for another seventy-years.
We discussed how comparing this cause to other down to Earth
charities, is perhaps an incorrect perception because this is
essentially a defense problem, simply because an asteroid is a missile
after all, albeit extraterrestrial. So this matter should not be
compared to 'stealing' funds from other more obvious crisis, like
disease, famine or water shortages.
FAIR has highlighted the misleading idea that we have the problem
under control because there are numerous reports of astronomical blue prints which
could potentially deflect the threat... because any defense is only as
good as its early warning system.
We have pointed out that if the world stopped it’s combined cost
of one days' conflict, and ‘invested’ in our planet’s future protection
from space, the cash equivalent would provide the scientists with the
funds they need to create an early warning system. That's how
comparatively 'cheap' the solution would be.
It is often plain human nature to erect traffic lights on
dangerous intersections, only after a fatal accident. We addressed why
governments are unable to support the cause of looking for space rocks
because of politics. How asteroids are more dangerous than most realize, because even
smaller more frequent asteroids can wreak regional catastrophe, causing climatic and
global financial havoc as a result.
Granted general public awareness to the existence of asteroids
and comets has increased in recent years, to the point that NEO (Near
Earth Object) research is now accepted as main stream science. Yet still
they come last in line when it comes to funding on space related
they could be the most important of all, as nobody knows when (no longer
a question of if) we are going to be clobbered.
We have stressed that we really cannot afford
to turn a blind celestial eye when the stakes are so high. The
odds may not be as long as
we think, and this science welcomes ANY help from the private sector.
Compared to all the daunting problems mankind is facing this
century, the security of knowing we are not facing a major looming
disaster from space, can be achieved for a fraction of almost all
the other hurdles ahead of us. Especially in light of the fact that an
asteroid strike could dwarf all the other combined.
We have emphasized that just because we are told the majority of
"Earth Killer" asteroids have now been found, this does not rule out a significant
life changing event from a smaller object we cannot spot.
The scientific fact that an incoming asteroid has to be found
years away compounds the problem scientists’ face.
Probably the sad realistic
point is like on so many occasions in our history, until the surface of our planet suffers some actual
collateral damage will the world sit-up and take notice... one can only pray it is a
‘small’ impact, in a remote area.