What do Friday the 13th, NASA and Data Centers have in common?
Friday the 13th is known to be an unlucky day but on Friday the 13th in 2029 it might be one the luckiest days ever for plant earth. In 2029 an asteroid named 99942 Apophis, about 320 meters wide, is going to approach very close to the earth. Close enough to be easily seen by the naked eye even in the day time. If it were to hit earth it is big enough to punch a hole through the Earth’s atmosphere and devastate a region the size of Texas.
Most of us remember earlier this year when what NASA called a “tiny asteroid” exploded with a flash and boom in Russia that shattered glass in buildings and left about 1,000 people hurt. The blast it created was equivalent to 300,000 tons of TNT luckily though this is a once in a 100 years event.
A close call back in 2004 promoted the United States to start closely tracking things flying around in space that can end life on earth as we know it. Most of this is done by telescopes taking multiple pictures of the same locations in space over time and then using computers in data centers to crunch the numbers and figure out what is moving, how big it is and what the speed and direction is. Allowing NASA and other agencies to figure out what is heading for us and what things floating out in space we don’t have to worry about.
This same asteroid is going to pass by us again seven years later in 2036 (on Easter Sunday) and new measurements (not possible in 2011 when it was thought that it might hit us) show that we are again safe. In the future we are going to locate a large asteroid and the choice will be either change its’ direction or face extinction. Apparently blowing it up before it gets here would just compound the problem. Let’s hope both our tracking abilities and the technology that allows us to take action when this does occur are both up to par…