2018-04-25 11:45 KST  
Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
Killer Asteroid Headed Towards Earth
Giant rock rapidly approaching, but collision unlikely
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
Published 2006-06-29 17:45 (KST)   
Starry-eyed humans, brace yourself and fasten your seatbelts. The planet Earth is about to cross paths with a massive asteroid on July 3.

The asteroid, named 2004XP14, measuring a half-mile in diameter, more or less, is hurtling through the darkness of space toward our planet. Even though the chances of it hitting Earth are nil, by cosmic standards, the asteroid will pass alarmingly close to our beloved blue orb next week. At its closest approach to Earth, the asteroid will brush past at almost the same distance of the moon from our planet.

Too small to be considered as planets, asteroids are said to be metallic and rocky objects that revolve around the sun. Sometimes called minor planets, they come in various sizes, from the mammoth Ceres, measuring about 1,000 kilometers in diameter, to the tiniest, pebble-sized fragments. Sixteen of these asteroids are known to have a diameter of 240 kilometers or more and they are scattered inside the Earth's orbit and beyond Saturn's. The majority of asteroids are herded within the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. Some of these have become wayward and unfortunately cross Earth's path. Millions of years ago, the Earth had been hit several times by some of the space rocks. One notable planetary scar, the well-preserved Barringer meteor crater is located in Winslow, Arizona.

The 2004XP14 belongs to a class of asteroids called Apollo, which have Earth-crossing orbits. This classification of Apollo asteroids came to be called as such because the first one to be discovered was given the name 1862 Apollo. About 1,989 of these threatening asteroids are known to wander in the Solar System.

The exact size of the asteroid 2004XP14 is not yet known. To try to ascertain its true mass, astronomers are planning to use a space radar and "ping" it with the sophisticated instruments. By analyzing the high frequency radio waves that will reflect from the surface of the fast-approaching asteroid, astronomers will have a chance to measure its size and shape.

Based on its brightness, the asteroid's diameter is approximately 1,345 to 3,018 feet, or 410 to 920 meters. If ever the asteroid gets too close and is captured by the Earth's powerful magnetic field, human civilization might shrink back to the stone-age.

Discovered by the Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) on Dec. 10, 2004, XP14 is under close watch by a concerned team of astronomers because of the possibility that this asteroid might impact with Earth during this century, even though a thorough study and analysis of its course and orbit concluded that humanity is not yet in danger.

Visually spotting the 2004XP14 will be quite hard. But those with a good telescope and ample experience in tracking heavenly objects might be lucky to catch a glimpse of the streaking object as it brushes past Earth's orbit.

On April 13, 2029, another asteroid is scheduled to make a close call with Earth, and this can be seen with the naked eye by observers in Asia and North Africa. Astronomers said that Asteroid 99942 Apophis, estimated to be about 1,000 or 300 meters wide, would come very close at about 20,000 miles from the surface of the planet. Close-passing asteroids like it come at least once in 1,500 years.

Scientists are anticipating the close fly-by with excitement for a unique opportunity and uneasy apprehension.

Researchers are hoping to take advantage of Apophis' close approach in order to gain more information on how asteroids are formed and to gain some insight on the seismic activity inside the space rock.

Tidal forces from the Earth's gravitational pull are going to twist and churn the core of Apophis as it comes at a very close distance. The forces will deform the asteroid's exterior. Astronomers are planning to use ground-based radar to monitor its movements and also use telescopes to record changes in the rock's surface and rotation. The asteroid was discovered last year and named after a snakelike Egyptian god of darkness and chaos.

Not much is known about the true origins of asteroids. A theory holds that they are remnants of a planet that broke up in a massive collision during the formation of the solar system. One plausible theory suggests that asteroids are left-over material which failed to form into a planet.

By examining fragments of space debris that strike the Earth's surface, scientists are able to get some understanding of these space material that pose a certain danger to mankind in the future. Asteroids that come on a collision course with our home planet are called meteioroids. The material that is left from the fiery entrance through the protective atmosphere is now known as meteorite.

Scientists are very interested in asteroids since they are materials of the early years of the solar system. Gaining a complete understanding of these cosmic vagabonds will enable them to construct a full picture of Earth's early life and formative beginnings.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

Add to :  Add to Del.icio.usDel.icio.us |  Add to Digg this Digg  |  Add to reddit reddit |  Add to Y! MyWeb Y! MyWeb

Ronda Hauben
Netizens Question Cause of Cheonan Tragedy
Michael Werbowski
[Opinion] Democracy's Downfall
Michael Solis
Arizona's Immigration Bill and Korea
Yehonathan Tommer
Assassination in Dubai
[ESL/EFL Podcast] Saying No
Seventeenth in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev...
  [ESL/EFL] Talking About Change
  [ESL/ EFL Podcast] Personal Finances
  [ESL/EFL] Buying and Selling
How worried are you about the H1N1 influenza virus?
  Very worried
  Somewhat worried
  Not yet
  Not at all
    * Vote to see the result.   
  copyright 1999 - 2018 ohmynews all rights reserved. internews@ohmynews.com Tel:+82-2-733-5505,5595(ext.125) Fax:+82-2-733-5011,5077