It’s been pretty well established that an asteroid or comet, plunging into the area around the Yucatan Peninsula, was the cause of the demise of the dinosaurs. The ash and dust thrown up by this unfathomable event blotted out enough of the Sun’s energy to change our climate. The dinosaurs and much of the rest of Earth’s living creatures couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive.
In the 4.5 billion years of the Earth’s history, that’s not a terribly unusual event. Unfortunately, it was unusual to the dinosaurs and it would be jarring to us. Our time frame is very different than the Earth’s
I mention this because it’s amazing how close we come from time to time… today, for instance.
Monday, NASA scientists working on NEAT (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) discovered a ‘small’ asteroid, which they named 2004FH. At 60-125 feet in diameter, it is tiny compared to the dinosaur’s nemesis. It’s still pretty darned big.
The 1908 Tunguska explosion, which leveled 750+ square miles of forest in Siberia, came from an asteroid not much larger!
NEAT is actually supposed to look for larger asteroids which might threaten the Earth (not that there’s anything we could do). 2004FH snuck in, despite its size, because of its proximity.
Tonight (March 18th at 5:08 PM EST) this asteroid will pass within 26,500 miles of Earth. Let’s try it another way. Scientists reference distances like this in AU, astronomical units, representing the average distance between Earth and Sun. 2004FH will be only .0003AU away!
If the distance to the Sun was one mile, this asteroid would be 1.5 feet away.
NASA says there’s no cause for alarm. It will pass safely by. Asteroids do all the time, though they’re seldom noticed before hand. This one won’t even be visible in North America.
Here’s how you’ll know if this bad boy really is trouble. If there’s no blog entry tomorrow – 2004FH was a little closer than anticipated..