Posts Tagged ‘Jakarta’

 

The Thirty Foot Asteroid That Headed Toward Earth Unnoticed!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

bolide3.jpgSpace is a dirty place. There’s all sorts of interstellar junk flying around at breakneck speed. In our solar system Jupiter, the largest planet with the strongest gravity, gets hit most often.

Still, in terms relative to the age of our planet, the Earth gets hit all the time. Just the random dust and specks burning out in the upper reaches of our atmosphere add a few hundred million pounds of additional mass to Earth every day!

Sometimes the incoming rocks are large.

We don’t see much evidence because water and weather gradually heal our wounds. The pock marked surface of the atmosphere free Moon gives a more realistic impression of what really happens.

I mention this because a reasonably significant rock came pretty close to hitting the Earth a few weeks ago. I’m only hearing about it now–and I’m usually pretty up on these things.

Here’s NASA’s dispassionate reporting:

On October 8, 2009 about 03:00 Greenwich time, an atmospheric fireball blast was observed and recorded over an island region of Indonesia. The blast is thought to be due to the atmospheric entry of a small asteroid about 10 meters in diameter that, due to atmospheric pressure, detonated in the atmosphere with an energy of about 50 kilotons (the equivalent of 100,000 pounds of TNT explosives).

The Jakarta Globe said the explosion was loud enough that, “Locals at first thought it was an earthquake and ran out of their homes in panic.”

Well, yeah. A hundred thousand pounds of TNT would make quite a rumble.

No one saw this bad boy coming. Not NASA. Not the Air Force. Surprise! It was the size of a small house and we had no warning at all.

What little we do know of this incident comes because we monitor atmospheric noise while searching for nuclear tests. Again, it’s a surprise to me, but there is a network of “infrasound stations” associated with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and they pinned it down.

In writing about this incident NASA scientists mention “an average impact velocity for NEAs of 20.3 km/s.” In other words, near Earth asteroids hit the Earth’s atmosphere at around 45,000 mph! That’s New York to Los Angeles in under four minutes!

Bottom line, those scary movies where asteroids plunge to Earth causing death and destruction… maybe they’re more science and less fiction than we think.

My Bob Simon Envy

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

During the football season, it’s tougher to watch 60 Minutes. It’s on after football, so the start time drifts. The DVR is fooled.

I watched last night. Zip – right through A-Rod story. I just didn’t care.

What did catch my attention was an amazing story by Bob Simon. He went to a pristine, untouched area in Indonesia, hundreds of miles from any kind of civilization. As his scientist host said, “It�s probably basically the way it was five or 10,000 years ago.”

Think about the financial and resource commitment from CBS News and Simon. This story cost a small fortune to produce.

After a 20-hour flight to Jakarta, Indonesia, followed by a seven-hour plane ride to New Guinea, Simon and the team had concluded the easy part of the trip. They then boarded a single-engine plane with Bruce Beehler, the lead scientist from “Conservation International,” which stirred the world with its discoveries in 2005. After an hour in the air, they were looking for a grass runway.

The next morning, we loaded up a helicopter for the 45-minute journey up to the mountain. It’s at least a two-week hike from the village and there are no trails.

The destination was a jungle paradise never touched by man – never. These would be first footsteps over much of the ground. It was lush, green, astoundingly beautiful and bounding with life (though curiously, very few mammals).

I would love to go there. I probably never will. At the moment, I don’t even have a valid passport.

There aren’t many jobs like Bob Simon’s left. Some big newspapers still have foreign correspondents. The TV networks have deemphasized international news.

Bob Simon travels the world, covering wars and this week, covering paradise.