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back to article NASA: 'Asteroid armageddon less likely than we feared'

First the good news: there are fewer Earth-threatening asteroids than previously thought. The bad news: there are still plenty of dinosaur extinction–sized globe crushers out there, awaiting their turn. "The risk of a really large asteroid impacting the Earth before we could find and warn of it has been substantially reduced," …

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Silver badge

Congressional mandate?

So now Congress is trying to stiff space with some sort of Axis of Evil rap. Next thing will be the development of some space lasers and a whole asteroid SCUD defense scheme.

No doubt NASA will ham it up like all the threat oriented services (CIA, NSA, FBI...) and make sure they secure lots of lovely gravy.

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Alert

whoosh

If you keep an eye on the list of rocks passing closer than the moon's orbit its, err, interesting that nearly all of the new entries to this list are added after they've gone past.

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Alien

Not really

Even if you were to try to look for them specifically, are you saying you wold see bluebottles out in the yard or when they buzz your head.. Unless we are willing to heft some pretty massive detection equipment into orbit, we will always be scanning the cosmos in a way analogous to peering through a drinking straw to see bullets flying at the Battle of Verdun. "You only saw them after they went past!" "You gonna give me more money so I can do a proper job?" "Hell No!" "Then drinking straw it is."

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Anonymous Coward

>New estimates, well, estimate that there are...<

So, they're guessing that their previous guess was wrong and their newest guess is more right - I shall certainly sleep more soundly for knowing this tho' I wasn't really losing much sleep over it in the first place - I'm more worried about being hit by returning man made space debris than asteroids destroying humanity.

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I don't think you have to worry much about man made space stuff. Since it is all pretty small, it would just burn up in the atmosphere.

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Anonymous Coward

Absolutely Martijn, I cannot remember any news stories of man made stuff hurtling to earth. I think we are all safe from that happening, gosh.

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Anonymous Coward

Sarcasm perhaps? It was in the news but the chances of being hit by man made space debree is something like one in 6 billion. That's trivial compared to something that is 1km in diameter.

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Ru
Boffin

I've heard stories too

Sometimes people seem to catch fire and burm to death for no obvious reason, with no signs of external ignition, fuel source or accelerant. I worry about that a lot more than being hit by man made space debris; it has a significantly higher chance of killing me after all.

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Coat

nice census chart

That's beautiful, the chart clearly shows the likely number of neo asteroids in spuds.

....sorry but I had to take my mind off the rugby.

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Go

No matter the fears, it is what it is and the status of worry among scientists changes nothing. But try and tell these overblown rocket boys their flawed opinions are irrelevant and they'll attack you forthwith. All that pablum gets sticky very quickly.

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Pint

Oh damn...

This is terrible news...

This finding makes it more likely that I'll *actually* have to pay off my debts. My plan to this point had been to enjoy life to the max - and let an asteroid deal with the creditors.

Damn!

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Bronze badge

Chicken Little Cutbacks

It can be a wee bit tricky to balance Chicken Little tactics during a recession.

Were the asteroid threat to be played too hard then there might be calls for cutbacks in all other non-essential space exploration. The 'is there life on Mars' crowd would then get somewhat miffed that their exhortations were no longer bringing in the funds.

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Black Helicopters

This is just to distract us from the REAL news

Last night was the lowest tide I've ever seen, and today is the hottest October day on record. The Earth is hurtling towards the sun, isn't it? COME ON NASA, TELL US THE TRUTH

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WTF?

So...

... the USA and Russia simultaneously detonated huge nuclear bombs...?

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Alert

A Solar Oblivion Can Wait...

No, it's not a solar based munching that awaits us... It will be the approaching, mandering magnetar that the 2012 loon-doom-merchants have missed that is causing the problems you describe. That said, we have already been co(s)mically splatted but, due to causality issues demonstrated by FTL neutrinos, we just don't know it yet - as it happened before we could dispatch a 'message to self' into our past timeline, which coincidentally, hasn't yet happened :)

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It's comets that could really blindside us

As everyone has understood since the 1970s, it's not asteroids that are the most serious threat. They are predictable, allowing astronomers to determine which might hit Earth and when - usually a long, long time in the future. Moreover, those that are small enough to be invisible or nearly so are probably small enough not to wipe out civilisation - maybe just a few nations or a continent at worst.

No, it's comets that pop up from ambush with as little notice as a month or two. Falling in from the Kujper belt or the Oort cloud, they can attain very high velocities as they drop towards the Sun - falling literally like a rock. Some of them are dark coloured, adding to their stealth capabilities. Yet comets can be quite massive enough to wipe out all life as we know it, or at least knock it back to the bacteria, wasps, cockroaches and sharks level. Worse still, a typical comet head is loosely bound and (in the expressive analogy of Niven and Pournelle, "Lucifer's Hammer") likely to hit the Earth like an enormous shotgun blast rather than a single bullet. That would greatly amplify the harm done, and reduce the chances of any parts of the world escaping relatively unharmed.

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Silver badge

The lump of iron that carved out Meteor Crater was less than 50m across, the blast was in the 10-20 megatonne range and would have made a whole lot of people very mad indeed (those who weren't been very dead of course). It's the smaller city-busting, ocean front property-drowing rocks we should really worry about.

And the even smaller ones which produce a pocket H-bomb sized explosion when they hit. It'd be nice to think we'd do the necessary checks before pressing the red button if one hit a nuclear-tipped country, but I don't have that much faith.

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Mushroom

Speaking as

representative of the Cockroaches

Damn.... will have to wait even longer before we can take over the planet

Oh well my fellow roaches, back to our council tower blocks and prepare to conquer the world.......... sometime

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Mushroom

Asteroids, pah!

USA should be more concerned with Yellowstone, 40k years overdue.

I'm concerned and I don't live there.

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Joke

Just so long as we keep sending Yogi Bear his picnic baskets, we should be fine.

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Anonymous Coward

Help!

Giant Ugly Noses are heading for the earth!

But... as to this "time for a warning" business, I think I'd rather not know.

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Pirate

What we know about is not the problem.

I wonder how they figure that they have located and have good orbital tracks on 93% of the big rocks that are out there? Even if they have, shouldn't we be worried about the other 7% given the dreadful consequences of a collision? Oh, and what about them thar comits? Shouldn't we be worried about them too?

In truth, even if we identified something, comet or asteroid, that was about to collide with Earth, could we do anything about it? The safest procedure would be to have machines rendezvous with said menacing object with the intention of strapping engines on it or doing something else to alter its course. Such a plan is a lot like savings with compound interest. It is not how much you deposit every pay day, but when you started saving that matters. Remember, the sooner you start such a job, the less you will have to do.

Have we done any of the preliminary engineering to accomplish such a thing? No, we have not. Right now, we are too busy bickering over the scraps of this little mudball we were born on. I think that we are pushing our luck by ignoring space and its potential. The Friends of Ned Ludd are wont to tell us that we should mind our own business and leave celestial matters in the hands of God, but I don't believe in God. I don't think that God believes in God, let alone Ned Ludd and his stick your-head-in the-sand approach to living in a dangerous universe. Not only is the universe rife with hazards, it is also full of opportunities for the alert and imaginative.

Let's just hope that visionaries like Elon Musk have their day. Otherwise we will be reduced to a mindless rabble squabbling over whether Arabic or Mandarin should be the official language of government.

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Trollface

You mean we can't send Bruce on a Space Shuttle... oh, right.

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The Planetary Society

> Have we done any of the preliminary engineering to accomplish such a thing?

I don't know about government-funded work, but The Planetary Society has helped with some research. Reg readers might be interested in the Mirror Bees study at the University of Glasgow, for instance. Of course, as an organisation of amateurs and volunteers, the Society's resources are limited. (Disclosure: I'm proud to be a member.)

See here: http://planetary.org/programs/projects/targetearth/

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911 asteroids? MUST BE A FEDERAL CONSPIRACY

I suggest, just to be on the safe side you understand, that we launch Willis, Affleck et al into space anyway. Buscemi can stay, he did go mad after all.

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