Monday, March 2, 2009


2009 DD45 is a newly discovered asteroid, about the size of a large house, and it's zipping really close by today. Unlike Dorothy's house that took out the Wicked Witch, however, an asteroid this size can make a reasonable dent in the local population should it hit Earth square on.

This one will get a blip in the news, and most folks busy with more important matters (is Nike really cooler than Reebok?) will miss it entirely.

So here's the real news. Somewhere out there, possibly thousands of years away, possibly only months away, is a huge asteroid with our name on it.

We know of one reasonably large rock, 2004 MN4, scheduled to careen a bit close in 2029 (and was once predicted to have a 1-in-37 chance of hitting), but now it looks like we're going to dodge that one, at least until 2036, and even then it's unlikely (1 in 12.3 million).

MN4 is aptly named Apophis, the Egyptian god of darkness and nihilism, the enemy of Ra, the sun-god.

But there's another one that will destroy most life on this planet--the ancient Egyptians knew this was possible when they conceived Apophis. We haven't found it yet. Still, it's there, coldly rotating on an elliptical orbit, and it will hit us.

When the big one comes, it's going to take out a lot of humans. The odds of dying in by asteroid are about 1 in 200,000 (give or take a magnitude). You're slightly more likely to die by a dog attack, and less likely by a fireworks accident or a tsunami. (At least according to LiveScience.)

Ah, but the stress worrying about this is most likely to finish you off--heart attacks remain the number one cause of death in the United States.

The cartoon is from NASA--no worries.


Alla said...

When I imagine an asteroid smashing into our planet, I immediately picture a little malicious boy kicking an ant hill. Somehow at that moment, as a species, ants come off a little more respectable.

doyle said...

I love that image!
(I may take it and run with it next time I talk about random asteroid collisions.)