Mystery Meteor

Steve's picture

Have you read about that meteor that blew up over Russia a few days ago? Amazing. A rock from space hasn’t caused serious damage and human injury since  --- I don’t know -- the days of Christopher Columbus. True, a similar but bigger meteor exploded over Siberia in 1908, but that area was virtually uninhabited.

Astronomers have a pretty good handle on the rates at which asteroids fall to earth. Every year a rock of several meters diameter collides with the Planet. Every decade or so, an asteroid of last week’s size (~10 m diameter) comes in. Maybe once in 500 years, one like 1908 (~30 m diameter) strikes. Unlike the moon where every space bit hits the surface, Earth’s shielding atmosphere stops impactors less than about 50 m diameter. Smaller ones fragment, detonate high above ground, and - knock on wood-  break nothing more than lots of windows.

Regular folks like me don’t worry much about meteors, but there are people whose job is to consider the effects of just about any disaster that you can imagine.  A few years ago I took role in a ‘war game’ type of exercise hosted by the U.S. Air Force. The premise was asteroid impact. The exercise tasked a panel to evaluate potential ramifications for the Country’s economy and defense, and plan for response.  For the game, I provided these two simulated ocean impacts. 

If you’d like to know what the group came up with, a report is publically available here...

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/Natural_Impact_After_Action_Report.pdf

I guess it is good that somebody out there is thinking and planning for every imaginable disaster. That frees me for more important concerns --- “Did I put the milk away before I left for the office?”

Steven N. Ward   Santa Cruz

Comments

music23's picture

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Risk Alert