Thursday night, an asteroid measuring 1,650 feet wide passed fairly close to the Earth, although it was outside of the moon’s orbit. Despite being pretty close for an asteroid pass of its side, it was still 3.3 million miles away. It was still too far away to be seen with the naked eye, but thousands of people got a better look at Asteroid 2012 LZ1 when the Slooh Space Camera released live streaming views of it on the Internet. Interesting, but not scary, right? Well, here’s the thing to take away from this. Asteroid 2012 LZ1 was only discovered the week before the fly-by and the live streaming. That means that an asteroid the size of a city block came that close to the Earth and scientists didn’t have a clue until it was about to happen.
The implications are fairly obvious. The last few years there have been several instances of asteroids coming pretty close to the Earth as astronomical terms go. Almost all of them were not discovered until the close pass was nearly upon us. That means that if there was an asteroid out there that was likely to strike the Earth, it is quite likely that no one will discover it in any time to do anything about it. Not that there’s a cohesive plan in effect for what to do in this event anyway.
The reality is that for all we know in this age of scientific discovery, and for every report that pours out from NASA and other international space agencies week after week with dramatic new findings, we still don’t possess the ability to be aware of threats to our planet with any certainty. If LZ1 had been on a one-way trip to Earth, it still wouldn’t have been discovered until just a week before it made its pass. And there is simply no way any sort of plan could be made and executed in such a short time span.
Yes, Common Sense Conspiracy agrees that it is highly unlikely that in any of our lifetimes something like this will happen. After all, it has been millions of years since the last major catastrophe happened, the one that ended the reign of the dinosaurs. At the same time, though, the fact remains that sooner or later, it will happen. With a seemingly infinite number of asteroids out there, it seems a mathematical certainty that eventually one will crash into the Earth. There’s no discrimination here. Remember Shoemaker-Levy. Any astronomer would have told you how unlikely it was that a comet would strike Jupiter. And yet it happened right before our eyes.
This is not fear mongering. We are just raising the issue that NASA and the government try to downplay this as not a threat to us and our civilization, but it is a threat. Kind of like military threats on Earth. Think about North Korea and Iran. The likelihood that North Korea develops a nuclear weapon, has the technology to launch it anywhere meaningful, and then comes up with a satisfactory reason to do so, even though it will result in their own total destruction, is very small. And yet, we are always watching, building missile defense systems, and trying to find out what they are up to. Shouldn’t we be as vigilant against natural disasters?
A good example of this idea is Hurricane Katrina that ravaged New Orleans. People who study up on things like this already knew before that happened that it was on everyone’s list as one of the possible most catastrophic disasters. Right up there with a category five hurricane slamming into New York City and other nightmarish scenarios. Then, it happened, although it could have been even more catastrophic if it had not weakened slightly and turned east. However, if you deal in statistics and probability, it is not very likely that it will happen again anytime soon. And yet, it could happen this year, or next year, or five years from now. The only certainty that exists is that it will happen again. Inevitably, across the expanse of time, it has to happen again. It doesn’t make sense any other way.
The threat of an asteroid collision is much the same. It has happened and it will happen again. The only question is when? And no one, not even our most brilliant scientists and astronomers, are even close to providing us with an answer, much less a solution.