The big news of the day (well, I guess yesterday, since I missed posting this by a few minutes!) was that a meteor, the size of a bus, flew over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk and exploded in the sky. The resultant shock wave from the explosion shook up buildings, shattered glass windows and injured about a thousand people. Images and video captures of the event were spectacular and terrifying. I wish I had recorded them.
Within a twenty-four hour period of this occurrence, the Earth was scheduled to have a close fly-by with another space rock, this one about half the size of a football field. Object “2012DA14″, came within about 27000 Km of the Earth’s surface. Normally, this is a huge number, but in astronomical terms, this was REALLY close – the closest known approach for something this big.
While I do not work in the field of astrophysics, studying it has given me an appreciation of how big and nasty the Universe can be, and how much we do not yet know about it. The Earth’s orbit around the sun is encompassed by a ring made up of thousands of asteroids and space rocks. As the planets orbit around the Sun, gravitational perturbations can dislodge any number of these objects and start them moving throughout the solar system. Sooner or later one of these objects will intersect with the Earth’s orbit, and impact with the surface. The resultant devastation would be unimaginable.
With this inevitability in mind, it seems logical to monitor the skies intensely, and to develop a plan to counter these threats. As far as I am aware, we do not have any plan in place or the technology to deal with something like this.
Everyone was aware of the big asteroid’s close fly-by, but the smaller one caught everyone off guard. If today’s meteor had reached the ground intact, it is believed that it was travelling fast enough and had enough mass to level a city. Any city is fair game to these meteors, so it has worry everyone. As a species, we need to come together on this issue, and provide the necessary resources to avert this pending catastrophe.
I started thinking about where we could divert such resources, and with the recent announcement of the Pope’s resignation, religion caught my eye. Religion must be the most useless and wasteful of all human inventions. I believe that if everyone in this world can give up this fantasy of an imaginary sky daddy who will grant them eternal existence, we will have found the resources we need. Churches take in billions of tax-free dollars annually. So with this in mind, I say we need fewer places of worship and fewer hocus pocus religions and we need more organizations like NASA and more telescopes monitoring the skies.