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Justification

Near-miss reports should be measured in hours not distance.

Astronomer Gene Shoemaker pointed out that distance looses meaning when one is referring to two objects traveling at unimaginable speeds. A seven-digit distance is quickly covered when the converging meteorite is traveling at a six-digit speed. Combined with the planet's orbital speed, the reality of a "near miss" means we have been as little as minutes away from celestial catastrophe—it's only a matter of time!

Nobody is searching for a doomsday rock.

We have the capability to scan our skies, just not the funding. Art by David A Hardy

A handful of scientists are looking for several doomsday rocks, a bunch of which are going to bump into Earthgiven enough time, this is inevitable.

Below are just a few of the documented asteroids that have narrowly missed Earth in the last eight years. Keep in mind that thousands of miles in celestial terms translates into mere hours when the speed and direction of our planet and the near-Earth objects (NEOs) are taken into account. Also, bear in mind that in 1908 an area of hundreds of square kilometres was devastated in Tunguska, Siberia by an object less than 60 meters in diameter—small in comparison to some recently identified NEOs listed below that fortunately missed or will miss us.

1996: an asteroid 450 meters across traveling at 93,000 kph was spotted just four days before crossing our path.

1998: the XF11 (1.6 km wide), traveling at 60,000 kph and due in 2028, was first thought to hit but may pass a close as 48,000 km.

1998: OX4, several 100 meters in diameter and scheduled for a close encounter in 2046, is lost.

2000 September: a 531 meter asteroid was in astronomical terms a close shave at 3.86 million kilometres.

2002: NT7, initially believed to be on collision course, is due in February 2019.

2002 March: this rock was discovered four days after it had passed within 461,000 kilometres.

2002 August: NY40, 800 meters wide, was so close it was visible with binoculars.

2003: QQ47 is another close call due to whiz past in March 2014.

2004 January 13: AS1 was believed to have a 1 in 4 chance of striking the planet with 36 hours. Also, at 500 meters across, it was much bigger than previously thought.

2004 March 18: 2004FH, at a mere 43,000 kilometre fly past, was again visible with binoculars.

2004: MN4, another celestial bullet-burn and 400 meters wide, is due on April 13, 2029.

2006 February 23: observation confirms asteroid 2004 VD17, a level 2 Torino Scale threat, is scheduled within the next century. It's estimated to have a diameter of about 580 meters and would produce an impact crater about 10 kilometres wide, causing an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 if it struck land on May 4, 2102.

2007 January 29: designated the TU24,  passed 334,000 miles from Earth at 3:33 a.m. A 500 – 2000 foot wide monster, in collateral damage terms, would have caused a global catastrophe.

2009 March 2: asteroid DD45, ten stories large, zooms by with two days notice a mere 40 000 miles away.

New smaller asteroids are being found at an alarming rate. Each discovery does not reduce but increases the odds.

An astoundingly long and growing list of NEOs is being compiled at NASA... [more]

Other warnings! Residents in Australia heard a sonic boom and saw a blue streak across the horizon, a large space boulder that passed through our atmosphere in August 2002. A fireball streaking through the sky was caught on film in Alberta, Canada, in 1971. Scientists estimate that it would have caused an explosion several times bigger than Hiroshima, had it struck the Earth's surface (BBC Horizon documentary, March 1999). When a meteor lit up the sky in Washington State on June 3, 2004, residents feared a nuclear attack [more].

It has been likened to a celestial shooting gallery. Only, at the moment, we are more like a blindfolded man before an erratic firing squad.

We have the technical capability to remove the fold but not the financial means.

FAIR uses a global network for a global problem on a matter that is not subject to speculation, excepting the fact that nobody can answer "when."

"Is an asteroid really that much of a threat to me?" About the same as perishing in a plane crash.

"Near-miss reports are a bit like crying wolf and do the science a disservice!" Don't forget that the wolf turned up one day.

"Isn't there an organization somewhere already paying to deal with this specific problem?" Some astronomers don't even have the funds for computers and still track NEOs manually.

The way of the dinosaur - if we don't act! courtesy Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"A large impact is not something we expect to happen in our lifetime, in our children's lifetime, or even our grand-children's lifetime. It would be very bad luck if it did happen. But it could happen at any time." Asteroid Hunter David Morrison [more]

 

Each country (or region) has a system in place, along with funding to maintain it, to deal with forecasting and managing the extremes of other natural phenomena. Few hard-pressed governments, however, have the inclination to spend money on this international rather than national issue. Ultimately and quite rightly, the issues that immediately concern their voters drive them.

The astronomical community involved unanimously agrees that only the lack of financial support prohibits them from making sure a rogue-asteroid-event isn't scheduled on our foreseeable calendar.

What happens if we find one that's definitely heading towards us? Well it depends, say most astronomers. If it's really close, there's not a lot we can do. Let's face it, we don't spot some of them until they've actually missed us, so theoretically it could happen at any time. However, if we have enough warning, a number of theories could be put into action. In all likelihood, the world's resources would be pooled to come up with a solution. The most probable with today's technology is the possibility of sending a nuke to try to knock an asteroid off course. Scientists are also working on various blueprints, from attaching solar sails to booster rockets to the rock, if it can be intercepted in time. Perhaps in future we will have laser beams that could do the trick.


Gravitational Tractor Illustration Credit & Copyright: Dan Durda
So what can an individual do? Individually, not a lot! However, collectively it is possible, with a small €15 [membership fee] from many individuals joining the FAIR Society as lifelong members, to create a large [fund] that can be used by scientists to finance [projects] that will identify threatening asteroids.
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