Reports today by Nancy Szokan, of the Washington Post, informed its readers about an asteroid that was discovered by NASA a mere 21 hours before it blazed into the Earth’s atmosphere on New Year’s Eve. It burned itself out in the familiar flashing streak so often sought and searched for by romantic wish makers the world over. No damage was done by the asteroid, clinically referred to as 2014 AA, largely because it was too small for that. The asteroid was only the approximate size of an automobile. The notable increase in NASA’s search and discovery of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) over the last few years begs the question, “Is NASA expecting that one day an asteroid will impact the Earth?”
According to author and astronomer, Phil Plait, who writes for Slate’s “Bad Astronomy” blog, it’s only a matter of time before one does. It is his opinion that the odds of larger rocks, with the potential for considerably more damage, impacting the Earth are high. He believes that it is eventually inevitable.
Although no cities were destroyed and no prophecies fulfilled by the approach and subsequent obliteration of 2014 AA this New Year’s Eve, Szokan indicated a belief that something significant had, nonetheless occurred that evening, when that fiery streak lit up the night sky.
The article from the Washington Post says, this was “only the second time in history, [that] scientists had spotted an incoming asteroid before it got really near us.” The other incident occurred on Oct.6, 2008, and involved the NEO provisionally titled 2008 TC3, which was discovered only 19 hours before its impact with Earth’s atmosphere, where it exploded tens of miles above the Nubian Desert with the approximate force of a 2 kilotons blast.
These tales of our planet’s increasing interactions with asteroids bring to mind reports of the Chelyabinsk meteor that entered and exploded in Earth’s atmosphere over Russia on Feb. 15, 2013. Szokan claims that although this meteor was just over 60 feet in diameter, the impact was significant. It was described as having power equivalent to nearly 40 explosives the size of that used at Hiroshima. The shock-wave caused massive damage to glass structures and resulted in serious injury for more than 1500 people. The article then goes on to say that the meteor’s flash was so bright that it caused a temporary blindness in nearly 70 people, severely burning dozens more.
According to Szokan, those scientists that were studying the unexpected explosion of a meteor over Chelyabinsk last winter, say that there is a much larger danger of extra-terrestrial rocks impacting the Earth than previously expected. So much larger, in fact, that after the event in Russia, the U.S. government and NASA quietly held a disaster drill rehearsing what would happen, and what to expect, in the event of an imminent asteroid threatening the Earth by impacting the Atlantic Ocean.
Considering how difficult it has proven for NASA and other scientists around the world to detect an asteroid before it threatens the Earth, what does NASA suggest in the event of an imminent asteroid strike? The answer, given to us by Charles Bolden chief at NASA in one word is, “pray.”
Biblical scholars, citing the references in the Book of Revelation, might well give the same advice. In chapter eight, verses eight and nine, a familiar picture is painted.
“The second angel sounded his trumpet and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea.”
The question which arises from the events on New Year’s Eve is whether NASA and the U.S. government’s escalating efforts to track NEOs, and to train disaster response teams, are a preparation for a possible event, or because they are expecting to face an imminent asteroid impact with the earth? Only time will tell. In the meantime, according to Mr. Bolden’s expert advice, prayer is the order of the day.
By Keith Wyatt