The Peril from Outer Space

More Obscure Things to Worry About

More Obscure Things to Worry About

Today, the notion of destruction from outer space impinged on the news in two separate stories. First of all, at 11:24 am PST, an asteroid named 2012 DA14 came within 17,100 miles of earth over Sumatra, center of the giant 2006 tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. DA14 was approximately the size of two football fields end to end.

Then, the same day, a meteor about the size of an SUV and weighing some 10 tons struck the Ural Mountains of Russia near Chelyabinsk, blowing out the glass of thousands of windows and injuring hundreds if not thousands of people.

The two events were not connected in any way, except insofar as their timing made me think once again of how fragile we are.

If 2012 DA14 had struck the earth, it would have created widespread atmospheric disorders along the lines of the Tunguska meteor or comet strike of 2008 in remote Siberia north of Krasnoyarsk. After more than a hundred years, this event is still shrouded in mystery, as no identifiable pieces of the extraterrestrial object have been recovered to date.

It’s no accident that Russia has seen so many major events of this sort. Despite the secession of some dozen Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs) when Communism fell around 1989-1990, Russia is still the largest country on earth, constituting some 11.46% of the earth’s total land mass.

It would be nice if events such as the ones described here made us tread a little more lightly over the earth, knowing that we could so easily be atomized by a piece of space junk.

I wonder.