I don’t know about you but this story worries me, slightly.
There’s this lump of rock in space called 2009 DD45. It is perhaps 30-40m wide and it just went whizzing past the earth. Nothing exciting there, except it came pretty close by asteroid standards, 72,000 km away, which is only twice the altitude of satellites in geosynchronous orbit and well within the moon’s orbit!
Rumour has it that this thing is roughly the same size as the rock that flattened 80 million trees over an area of 2,000 square km (800 square miles) near the Tunguska river in Siberia in 1908. It has the explosive power equivalent to about 10 to 15 megatonnes of TNT, about 1,000 times more powerful than the blast from the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
That makes it a little more worrying. What worries me the most though is that the first we knew about this rock was a report on Saturday by the Siding Spring Survey, a near-Earth object search programme in Australia.
Now, assuming there are people positioned all over the earth watching for these things, we’ve left no ‘blind spots’, I’m concerned that the best we can expect in terms of notice is about 3 days. That’s nowhere near enough time to run around like headless chickens, invent asteroid blasting weapons, build a spacecraft to carry them and then get Bruce Willis and Co into space in time to deflect the thing!! Holy rock splat, Batman! We’re doomed!
I always had this romantic notion that in the rare event we did come under this threat we’d have enough notice to react. It appears not. Nor do we have any form of defence whatsoever.
I wonder which cities will be flattened before we do something about this? Or are we just hoping the next one also flattens some trees, burns some desert or makes a very big splash?