Saturday, January 26, 2008

Asteroid is Hurtling Towards Earth

For reasons that will have conspiracy theorists twitching nervously, the world's mainstream media has been strangely silent about the impending near-arrival of a giant asteroid which is due to pass within 334,000 miles of earth on January 29th.

The asteroid - labelled 2007WD5 by Nasa's Near-Earth Object Programme - looks set to pass close enough to be visible by amateur astronomers and has been described as "potato-shaped" measuring 150-500 metres in length.

An impact of an object this size, travelling at 30,000 miles per hour, would be devastating were it to hit the earth, a prospect which NASA are not predicting, but perhaps not loudly enough to calm the nerves of the web's more nervous observers.

Students of near earth events will be familiar with the Tunguska Event when, on June 30th 1908, a meteoroid (it is now assumed) exploded about three miles above the Siberian forest north west of Lake Baikal causing widespread devastation over an area of approximately 800 square miles. A similar event above a major city of the time would have had a major effect on the course of 20th century history.

The colourful interactive space map on NASA's site shows what close means in cosmic terms as you follow the path of the asteroid around the inner solar system. Not one for those of a nervous disposition.

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