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Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 6.34.27 PMThis is just plain cool.  It is also a bit weird.  Siberia, primarily known as the birthplace of one of the greatest baritones in the history of opera, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, also gets more than its fair share of meteor hits.  Fortunately, 2013 was not 1907.  If it had been, as bad as 1907, thousands of people would have been either killed or seriously injured.  The Guardian has the best video I’ve seen of the event.  The Guardian also has an interesting explanation of why everyone seemed to have a dash-cam in their car.  Seems like drivers are so bad in Russian and courts so full of complaints, if they have a video of an incident, it is easier to win a case in court.  Makes sense to The Pink Flamingo.

“...”Objects like that are nearly impossible to see until a day or two before impact,” says Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which tracks asteroids and small bodies. So far as he knows, he says, his centre also failed to spot the approaching rock.

The meteoroid itself was probably made of rock, but may have also contained nickel and iron. Campbell-Brown says that it was likely to have come from the asteroid belt, a region containing hundreds of thousands of rocky bodies and located between Mars and Jupiter. The European Space Agency does not think that the meteor is related to a much larger asteroid known as 2012 DA14, which will be passing within about 20,000 kilometres of Earth later today. Both the timing of the meteor’s appearance and its location indicate that it came from a different direction, Klinkrad says. Campbell-Brown agrees: “We happened to have close approaches to two of them, and one of them got us,” she says….”

The story of how the story broke is quite interesting.  It is all about hockey, the Washington Caps, and fans searching for unknown Russian hockey players to scout!  The Pink Flamingo was up, late working.  I started seeing tweets about it by about one in the morning.  But, like the article in the Atlantic says, it was on Twitter long before anything else, with links to YouTube.  Allegedly, something hit in Cuba, but as of this writing, there are only a few rumors and nothing more.

“…Had 2012 DA14 hit the Earth, the impacts would have been comparable to the 1908 Tungusta Event that devastated 2.150 square km with an estimated 10 and 20 megaton explosion. But while, the Tungusta Event hit an isolated pocket of Eastern Russia, because of our lack of interstellar observational capacity we don’t yet know where the next major impact will hit — or if it will be a few hundred feet across like in Tungusta, or up to 20 kilometers like the asteroid that new evidence shows struck Australia between 298 and 360 million years ago….”

According to Amy Mainzer, who works with NASA’s NEO project:

“…We are quickly learning a lot about the Russian fireball. It was pretty small – only about 15 m and about 7000 tonnes – and that’s why it wasn’t detected. This object wasn’t seen earlier because it was really faint, and it might not have been visible to observers in the night sky. Most of the survey efforts have been very successful in finding the largest asteroids (about 90% of the near-Earth objects larger than 1 km in diameter have been found), but there is still a lot of work to be done with finding and tracking the smaller objects….”

The Daily Grail has the best collection of video that I’ve found, so far.  Right now there’s not much we an do about such events, other than duck, and as Han Solo said, hope they don’t have blasters.  (Sorry, it’s a Han Solo kind of day).  There were tales that the meteor had been shot down, but that is simply not possible.  Besides, shooting something like this down, if possible, would create an even bigger mess with way too many small chunks that could do even more damage.

“…Sadly, none of this means cities are safe against these beasts. Airbursts can be dangerous too, depending on the size of the object. On June 30, 1908, a stony asteroid just a bit bigger than the one about to pass Earth exploded over the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, in Siberia, Russia. There was no city near the explosion site—which happened at about 5 to 10 kilometers above the surface—but the airburst obliterated an estimated 80 million trees over an area of 830 square miles (2,150 square kilometers). In 2011, the estimated population of New York City were about 8.2 million people living over an area of about 302 square miles (783.8 square kilometers). You do the math….”

Huffington Post

Huffington Post

NYTimes

NYTimes

Naturally, the darn thing would end up hitting a lake, so you can’t see much of a crater.  That’s a good thing.  A lot of lives were saved.

Huffington Post

Huffington Post

It’s a space thing.

“…The shock wave blew in an estimated 100,000 square meters (more than 1 million square feet) of glass, according to city officials, who said 3,000 buildings in Chelyabinsk were damaged. At a zinc factory, part of the roof collapsed….

Scientists estimated the meteor unleashed a force 20 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, although the space rock exploded at a much higher altitude. Amy Mainzer, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the atmosphere acted as a shield….”

It’s also a space thing that is not entirely beyond our control. No, we can’t stop everything from entering the atmosphere, but we can have some advanced warning. We don’t have the technology to shoot something like this down, but we could. ESA claims to be working on a project to take out a major asteroid.

“…There are other approaches. The European Space Agency is working on a mission called Don Quijote that aims to use a large, heavy spacecraft to ram an asteroid out of the way. Nor is violence the only answer: sending a rocket engine to an asteroid could work if the asteroid in question was relatively small and was detected with plenty of time to spare. Another non-violent proposal is to “paint” one side of an asteroid in light or dark colours, tweaking its trajectory via a neat bit of physics called the Yarkovsky effect that describes the way in which sunlight gives celestial bodies a gentle push. Perhaps the most elegant, though least spectacular, solution involves parking a spacecraft called a “gravity tractor” in orbit around an asteroid, and relying on its gravity to tug the rock gently out of the way.

On February 14th two scientists at the University of California in Santa Barbara outlined another proposal, called DESTAR, in which solar-powered orbiting lasers would be turned on a threatening asteroid. The system could work in one of two ways. The stream of photons pouring from the lasers on a smallish system, roughly the size of the International Space Station, would be able to alter an asteroid’s orbit over time by giving it a push. But bigger lasers would provide more destructive options. A large version of the system (roughly 10km across) could, the researchers say, vaporise an asteroid ten times the size of 2012 DA14 over the course of about a year. They claim, perhaps rather optimistically, that their idea is feasible with current technology….”

The Natura Plane

The Natural Plane

Gizmodo

Gizmodo

The problem is that R & D is being cut.  Science is being cut, and NASA is being gradually starved to death with its lowest budget, ever.  The Far Right doesn’t give a damn about science and technology unless they are told to care about it.  This country grows by research and development.  It grows our economy.  It is the engine of job creation.  I think by now, we all know the GOP doesn’t give a damn about job creation unless they are told to give a damn about it.  Since the Koch Brothers don’t want people to have good paying jobs, we don’t have good paying jobs being created.   By not allowing infrastructure development in this country, we are soon going to start lagging behind the rest of the world.

IO9

IO9

Rusty Schweickart wrote:

“…Why do we care about finding them if there’s nothing we can do about it? Because, unknown to most people, is that if we have adequate early warning, our current space technology is sufficiently advanced to deflect these asteroids. For smaller impacts, even a last-minute warning of several days could enable a local evacuation and save many lives.

Deflection, however, will generally require several decades of warning. Fortunately, due to the relatively pure nature of space dynamics, forecasting an asteroid impact 100 years in advance is possible once its orbit is well known. The sine qua non, therefore, is finding them.

Over the past 15 years, NASA has, thankfully, discovered over 95% of the largest asteroids that cross the Earth’s orbit and that would have planet-wide consequences on impact. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the telescopes, we have discovered less than 1% of their smaller DA14-like cousins “only” capable of wiping out a metropolitan area; 99% of the job remains to be done.

There is good reason for hope, however. Several high-level expert groups over the past five years have recommended placing an infra-red space telescope into a Venus-like orbit around the sun, in order to discover the bulk of Earth-threatening smaller asteroids. Such a telescope would look outward at the Earth’s orbit as it circled the sun every 230 days or so, detecting and tracking, in its 6.5 years of operation, the missing 99% of potentially Earth-impacting asteroids.

The B612 Foundation (named for the asteroid home of the “Little Prince” in Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s classic child’s story), a US non-profit organization of former astronauts, scientists, engineers and supporters, is mounting precisely such a mission. This Sentinel telescope is planned for launch in 2018, and in its first month of operation alone, it will discover more new near-Earth asteroids than the current programs have found in 15 years.

By the end of its planned lifetime, Sentinel will have discovered well over 90% of the asteroids that could destroy entire regions of Earth on impact (those larger than 350ft in diameter) and more than 50% of the currently unknown DA14-like near-Earth asteroids.

The B612 Foundation has undertaken this Sentinel project as a non-governmental initiative, somewhat akin to a growing number of private space ventures originated in the past few years. The foundation, however, is not undertaking this project for profit; we are a non-profit corporation. Our motivation is strictly to ensure the survival of life on Earth – all of it. And while NASA is cooperating with us by providing certain communication and analytic services, we are excited, as a private venture, to welcome the participation of all the crew of spaceship Earth in this great endeavor….”

Wired

Wired

The Pink Flamingo has been an advocate of deep space mining, and asteroid mining since the early 1980s.  Today, we’re getting closer to the possibility.  The reason we want to mine asteroids is because of the vast mineral wealth on them, and preserving what we have here.

Russia Today

Russia Today

“… “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain inward-looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space.”…” Stephen Hawking

The Atlantic

The Atlantic

If the Koch Brothers were involved in aerospace, we would not be seeing such draconian cuts to even commercial endeavors. But, the way things are now, thanks primarily to the far right loons of the GOP, things are really going to get bad.  It’s like the old line from Star Trek.

Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life down here!

This is just getting really old, really fast.

The meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk could have been so much worse.  Thanks to the fact that there were no serious injuries reported, even though something like 1200 people were injured, and no one was killed, this is just an incredible event.  It is a warning that we missed a very close call.  If it had happened over Manhattan, there would have been a huge mess.  If it had happened near any major city the same thing would have occurred.  Thankfully, it did not.

And, now, just a little bit of what Russia is all about – one of the great voices of the ages!  The best way to judge the greatness of an operatic voice is with something like this.

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