Friday, February 15, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #64: Asteroid Edition

Today, 15 February 2013, we’re due for a close call with an asteroid. Not to worry, they’re telling us the asteroid will “only” come within 17,200 miles (27,680.7 km) of the Earth. As a point of reference, some weather and communication satellites orbit the Earth at a distance of 22,300 miles (35, 888.4 km). NASA spokespeople insist that “No Earth impact is possible,” and the asteroid won’t be visible to the naked eye, which is really disappointing to those of us who generally use our naked eyes to look for shit. The asteroid will be most visible through telescopes from Asia, Eastern Europe and Australia, and it will come closest to the Earth above Sumatra. It’s 150 feet (45.72 meters) wide and will be traveling at a speed of 17,400 mph (28,002.5 kph). Scientists say that an asteroid of this size hits the Earth roughly every 1,200 years. This one, Asteroid 2012 DA14, will just be buzzing the Earth, let me repeat, not actually hitting it.

We hope.

1) The last large asteroid strike on Earth was the Tunguska event of 1908. The event occurred at about 7:14 am on the morning of 30 June. The asteroid didn’t actually strike the Earth; rather, it exploded in the atmosphere at an altitude of three to six miles (5 to 10 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface. Rough estimates put the power of the blast at about 1,000 times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
The explosion, which occurred over a largely unpopulated region of Siberia near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, flattened 80 million trees over 830 square miles (2,150 square kilometers).

Holy shit.

Witnesses report seeing a column of bluish light moving across the sky at about 7:17 am, followed by a flash about ten minutes later, and a sound they compared to artillery fire. Those closest to the explosion reported that the sound seemed to move from east to north. An accompanying shock wave broke windows and knocked people down hundreds of miles away. Night skies across Asia and Europe glowed for days, and changes in atmospheric pressure were noted as far away as Great Britain.

The epicenter of the Tunguska event in 2008.

2) Chinese records seem to suggest that 10,000 people in the Shanxi Province perished after an asteroid broke up in the atmosphere there in the year 1490 AD. There is some doubt as to whether this was an asteroid impact or a meteor shower, and further doubt as to whether that many people actually died. These ancient historians lie like Fox News. You just can’t trust them.

3) Egypt’s Kamil Crater is believed to have formed 3,500 years ago as a result of an asteroid strike. It was discovered by Google Earth user V. de Michelle on 19 February 2009, because people are totally straight-up discovering things while sitting on their asses using Google Apps now, thank you, Skynet.

You're welcome.

4) An impact in 1443 AD probably created the Mahuika Crater, a submarine impact crater on the New Zealand continental shelf. Historians know that, around that time, New Zealand natives abandoned their settlements on the southern coasts of New Zealand. Tsunami experts blamed an earthquake-induced wave, but even the largest undersea earthquakes in the area have produced waves of only 44 to 65 yards (40 to 60 meters) in height. Evidence of beach sand is present at 241 yards (220 meters) on Stewart Island, the southernmost island of New Zealand. Mineral and fossil deposits found in Antarctic ice suggest that the tsunami that drove human inhabitants away from the southernmost parts of New Zealand was the result of a tremendous celestial fireball plunging into the sea.


5) On 10 August 1972, the Great Daylight 1972 Fireball entered the atmosphere over Utah and traveled north until it left the atmosphere over Alberta, Canada. Pictures and home videos were taken.

This was technically not an asteroid, but an Earth-grazing fireball, which is an awesome name for a meteoroid that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere and emerges unscathed to fly back out into space. Several of these have been scientifically studied, and one, the Meteor Procession of 20 July 1860, has been immortalized on canvas:

Not as good as film, but it's in the public domain.

6) The first verifiable asteroid strike of a human was a stone the size of a bean, which struck the head of the five-year-old daughter of Mrs. Kuriyama, a resident of Aba, Japan. The strike occurred on 28 April 1927. The child recovered. The asteroid is now in a museum.

The second verifiable asteroid strike of a human occurred on 30 November 1954, when an 8.8 lb (4 kg) asteroid smashed through the roof of Sylacauga, Alabama resident Ann Hodges. The rock ricocheted off Ms. Hodges’s radio and struck her, leaving her badly bruised.

And to this day, it was the most exciting thing that every happened in Sylacauga. ~ Rivers A. Langley


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