The aim is to discover potentially dangerous asteroids as early as possible. So time is to remain to prepare for impacts or to even beat them back.
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2010 August 7
The lorry size lump with the designation 2008 TC3 was the first asteroid which astronomers had already discovered before the collision with earth - when also only 19 hours in advance. It was a long time unclear whether fragments of the cosmic missile fell to the ground or if it burned out completely. Read more:
Today I read articles of last year. They give an impression which heavenly bodies collide with earth. The collision of other objects with our planet is completely normal, only it is well more an exception when the other object is so big that damage is caused as it is described in the prophecies. Here some excerpts from the articles:
Asteroid impact: Astronomers pick up fragments.
Scientists have gathered the remnants of a stone meteorite, which half a year ago broke above the Nubian dessert.
... it broke at the entry into the atmosphere of the earth above the Nubian dessert.
In the early morning hours of the 7th of October 2008 a gleaming ball of fire illuminated the dessert sky above North Sudan. A 80 ton heave stone meteorite had burst after the entry into the earth atmosphere in 37 kilometre height. The lorry size lump with the designation 2008 TC3 was the first asteroid which astronomers had already discovered before the collision with earth - when also only 19 hours in advance. It was a long time unclear whether fragments of the cosmic missile fell to the ground or if it burned out completely.
In the British journal Nature scientists around Peter Jenniskens from the Californian SETI institute in Mountain View now describe how they searched for remnants of the meteorite. For several days the scientists rummaged around a stretch of 29 kilometre in the sand of the Nubian dessert - supported by students of the University of Khartoum. With success: They picked up 47 pieces in total. These meteorites are together of 3.95 kilogram weight.
A piece of the former solar system "That was an unusual opportunity to bring a piece of an asteroid into the laboratory for the first time, which we already saw in space," said Jenniskens. From their photos of the forward racing lump the scientists calculated that the asteroid had a diameter of about four metre.
No danger to earth.
The asteroid 2008 TC3 had been discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey, which searches with automatic telescopes for comets and asteroids on collision course with earth. The aim is to discover potentially dangerous asteroids as early as possible. So time is to remain to prepare for impacts or to even beat them back. But this was not necessary with the asteroid which broke above the Nubian dessert: Despite its 80 tons and its diameter of four metre it was just too small and therefore did not present a danger for earth, stressed the astronomers.
On average about 10.000 tons of material rain down every year from space onto earth. Most of it though in form of tiny small grains, which burn out in the atmosphere of the earth. Meteorites, which fall onto earth, contribute only a few percent. Moreover about every 500.000 a disastrous impact of a several hundred metre big lump - though pure statistically seen.
Meteorite hits earth: The danger out of space
A cosmic visitor caused a sensation on Saturday evening in the whole of northern Europe.
A cosmic visitor in northern Europe: A ball of fire illuminated the sky, there was a powerful thunder rumbling. Eye-witnesses want to have seen UFOs. But probably ... the thing was a meteorite.
... on Saturday evening there was a dazzling flash of light above parts of northern Germany and Scandinavia, accompanied by a rumbling.
But everything points to a meteor. Therefore a stone lump - or a lump of iron. The long, bright trail of light through the cover of the earth is one sign, as well as a bang - similar to a sonic boom.
These lumps race around million fold between Mars and Jupiter, always around the sun. One calls them then asteroids. At collisions among each other smaller fragments can result, which drift into the inner solar system and can among other things collide with earth. That happens uninterruptedly every day and every night. When an meteor crashes into earth, then it at first races through the atmosphere with great speed. Through friction heat the meteor and also the air along the path of the meteor get hot so strongly that they light up. At night we can see this as a so-called shooting star. When the lumps are bigger then also their trail of light gets bigger and brighter. People presumably saw such a so-called "ball of fire" at the weekend. When the lump was big enough then it could even interpenetrate the atmosphere and fell to the ground or into the sea.
How big can these lumps be, which go down to earth?
That varies. There were already some, which were as big as your fist and have torn holes into house roofs. But there are also bigger lumps, even lumps of rock of several kilometre in size, which could collide with earth. Only recently it became known that a meteorite punched a crater in Sudan.
Do we now have to worry that one day such a gigantic lump falls on our head and causes serious devastation?
It is not impossible. Statisticians claim that the danger to be struck by a meteorite is greater than to be killed in a crash of a plane. When a big meteorite smashes into earth a continental chaos could arise. Whole cities or even whole countries or continents could get destroyed, according to the size of the meteor. The air pressure waves, which it triggers at its fall through the atmosphere, are vast, and through the strong heating fires would be triggered. Comparable with the explosion of atom bombs.
No nice prospects. What can one do against it?
There are automatic search systems that can detect asteroids in the solar system. For example the project "NEAT" (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) of Nasa, where telescopes uninterruptedly search the sky for asteroids and also discover them. For every newly discovered asteroid its trail is calculated to establish whether it is on collision course with earth. Would this be the case and would it be big enough that it causes danger, then we could send a space probe to it and try to make a soft landing on it and to then steer it onto another course, so that it gets out of the way of earth.
Could one also simply destroy this lump?
That would not be a good solution because of several lumps some would go down to earth - and the danger would not be averted through this, but be multiplied.
How much time do the experts have to destroy the lump when they discover such a danger in space?
That depends on how early one discovers the asteroids on collision course with earth. Bigger asteroids one would well discover 10 or 20 years before their impact on earth.
Meteor or meteorite?
Meteors race million fold around in space, especially many gather between Mars and Jupiter. Smaller pieces can come into being at crashes among each other, which drift into the inner solar system and can among other things collide with earth. When a meteor collides with earth, crosses the atmosphere and reaches the ground, one speaks of a "meteorite".
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