On Friday February 15, 2013 an asteroid designated as 2012 DA14, a space rock that is approximately 150 feet (45 meters) across will pass by earth just close enough to make astronomers cringe. While scientists are confident that 2012 DA14 will not strike the planet, the asteroid will pass within the orbits of several communications satellites. This is causing some concern for collision with satellites and making it the closest passage of an asteroid to Earth on record.
If an asteroid gets this close, what are the chances of one coming closer? Some scientists fear that a massive impact from an asteroid large enough to create a doomsday scenario is highly likely. In fact, an impact from a larger asteroid with a diameter of about half a mile (one kilometer) could temporarily change global climate and kill millions of people if it hit a populated area. In tonight’s new episode of Top Secrets: Doomsday, scientist explore this as well as many other possibilities for world-wide catastrophe that most people have not even considered. Many of these scenarios, including a major asteroid impact, have occurred before and may very well happen again.
Right now, NASA is looking at about 1300 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids. While it seems we would have a plan in place, most of the movie scenarios for avoiding impact are not realistic. Nuclear weapons are not powerful enough to break up an asteroid that is big enough to cause immense damage to our planet. It is possible that scientists might devise a way to deflect the asteroid or perhaps to change its trajectory with gravitational tugs. Still, we are nowhere near having the technology yet. These asteroids are also not big enough to be detected until they are so close that time will be limited.
What if we are hit by a smaller asteroid or meteor that does not cause catastrophic damage? Does that mean the world is safe for the moment? Perhaps not, according to Dr. Pamela Gay, an America astronomer. She states that, “Bacteria has the ability to survive the expanses of space, to survive the vacuum, to survive the heat of reentry.” So, it may not take a collision with a large rock to wipe us out. Instead, it could simply be alien bacteria carried by a meteor traveling between the worlds.
It certainly seems possible that a large asteroid could strike Earth, just not this time around. “There is still a tiny chance that [2012 DA14] might hit us on some future passage by the Earth; for example there is [a] 1-in-200,000 chance that it could hit us in the year 2080,” said Paul Chodas, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Near Earth Object (NEO) program office in Pasadena, California. This asteroid may not have our name on it, but there will be others. Our universe is full of doomsday surprises, some which we might not even notice until it’s too late. Tune in to Top Secrets: Doomsday Friday February 15 at 11:30 PM et/pt and discover a few possibilities you might not have considered about the end of the world as we know it.