back to article Bad news: Earth is not going to be walloped by asteroid 2006 QV89. Good news: Boffins have lost sight of it, so all hope is not yet lost

Panic-stricken headlines claiming Earth will be slammed by an asteroid on September 9 this year should be ignored, the European Space Agency (ESA) assures us. The supposedly planet-menacing 100-foot-(30-metre)-diameter space rock, dubbed 2006 QV89, was discovered in August 2006. Following observations over ten days back then, …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Damage calculation

    For anyone interested, Purdue university has an online Asteroid damage calculator if you have enough numbers to put in.

    Of course it won't tell you exactly where a hit is likely to take place, so you will know if there is going to be a large bang but not if you will be part of it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Damage calculation

      I can also tell you how likely you are to win the lottery...

      ... but not what the lottery numbers this week are.

    2. Michael Hoffmann
      Unhappy

      Re: Damage calculation

      Yes, I used the Imperial College calculator and even with worst case settings, I was distinctly underwhelmed as to the effects unless it comes down right on your head.

      Any chance they meant it's 30 KILOmeters in size? For a proper earth-shattering kaboom?

      </marvin>

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Damage calculation

        30m is big enough to cause problems if it comes down over a built up area, as opposed to the (~20m) Chelyabinsk meteor which fortunately came down outside of town, but still caused thousands of injuries.

        Sure, injuries from flying glass might not kill you, but it can't be much fun.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Damage calculation

          Also, an awful lot depends on the angle at which it hits the atmosphere. A glancing blow like Tunguska is pretty bad, but if the Tunkuska strike had been vertical it wouldn't have broken up very much before impact. A Richter 5 would have turned into something very much bigger than that with a huge surface wave component.

        2. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Damage calculation

          The big problem with any meteor of this size is that unless in barrels out of the sky near vertically down (planetary bullseye) it's highly likely to not cause enough damage to keep anyones attention for more than a day or two.

          Not knowing the meteor composition, that is approaching at a low angle the effects could range from pretty upper atmosphere fireworks (composition is mostly ice/gravel) to leaving a long trail of increasing damage from the supersonic shockwave before it either airbursts from thermal stress or impacts, both would be in the megaton range (composition is near solid Iron)

          Chelyabinsk was a shallow angle entry and detonation at over 18 miles altitude, about as safe as it gets for a 20m lump of rock, If it had entered the atmosphere via the shortest route to ground there would have been something like 100 square miles of total destruction and a sizable crater.

          So far we've been lucky riding the probability curve for 20m+ meteors, 70% arrive over the sea, most arrive at a shallow angle, most miss populated areas.

  2. Often Confused
    Holmes

    Last place you look

    Things tend to turn up after you stopped looking for them;

    In the pocket of your last worn trousers..

    Down the back of the sofa..

    In a large crater in the ground..

    Nothing to worry about

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Last place you look

      I think it was Billy Connolly:

      "Of course things are always in the last place you look. Why would you carry on looking for something after you've found it?"

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: Last place you look

        I usually find things in the first place I look. But only after I failed to spot it there, then looked everywhere else in vain, then went back to the first place again to look *properly* this time.

  3. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Trollface

    Good Luck?

    Damn... and here I was going to give it THE FINGER as it crashed onto my head.

    no more "end of the world" party I guess.

  4. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Coat

    13 fecking years to look for it and they only start at the beginning of the summer holidays when everyone is packing up to go down the beach? Bit of Project Management is needed here. If it's not too late...

    Mine's the one with the meteor in it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boffins have lost sight of it, so all hope is not yet lost

    but it's not lurking somewhere, behind the moon, idling its ion engines, eh? The public need to know and be reassured...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At least we now know where the chem-trails REALLY came from

    2. Qwelak

      Re: Boffins have lost sight of it, so all hope is not yet lost

      Oh No! Could we have a stealth asteroid on our hands now.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Boffins have lost sight of it, so all hope is not yet lost

      It's out there but they can't see it. Whoever sent it probably has cloaking mode turned on.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Boffins have lost sight of it, so all hope is not yet lost

        The ultra-famous sciento-magician Effrafax of Wug once bet his life that, given a year, he could render the great megamountain Magramal entirely invisible.

        Having spent most of the year jiggling around with immense Lux-O-Valves and Refracto-Nullifiers and Spectrum-Bypass-O-Matics, he realized, with nine hours to go, that he wasn’t going to make it.

        So, he and his friends, and his friends’ friends, and his friends’ friends’ friends, and his friends’ friends’ friends’ friends, and some rather less good friends of theirs who happened to own a major stellar trucking company, put in what now is widely recognized as being the hardest night’s work in history, and, sure enough, on the following day, Magramal was no longer visible.

        Effrafax lost his bet — and therefore his life — simply because some pedantic adjudicating official noticed (a) that when walking around the area that Magramal ought to be he didn’t trip over or break his nose on anything, and (b) a suspicious-looking extra moon.

        Note - I was initially going to go with a Somebody Elses Problem Field.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    September 9 this year should be ignored

    every time I heard something "should" work, "should" do, "should" be allright, it makes me a bit uneasy, I wonder wh

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: September 9 this year should be ignored

      9th September is a Monday. I'm happy to ignore it.

      1. John Arthur
        Trollface

        Re: September 9 this year should be ignored

        yes, yes, but... if it is running late it might arrive on Friday the 13th

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: September 9 this year should be ignored

          Things may be a bit overdue especially on the 13th September 2019, as our nuclear waste dumps on the moon are presently almost twenty years overdue to blow.

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: September 9 this year should be ignored

          It will arrive on Thursday.

          And it will be noticed when every hi-fi set in the world, every radio, every television, every cassette recorder, every woofer, every tweeter, every mid-range driver in the world quietly turns itself ON

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    How irrisponsible

    If they just lose an asteroid like that, maybe *deity* won't let them have any more. Serve them right too, I've never lost one.

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: How irrisponsible

      " ... the European Space Agency (ESA) assures us ... "

      Just how big is this Galileo error?

  8. Methusalah
    Mushroom

    Losing an Asteroid

    Maybe it's in "stealth" mode: to avoid a visit from Bruce Willis?

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Bloody tea leaves. Nick anything. Even asteroids.

    It'll probably turn up on eBay.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      @Doctor Syntax

      If it's on eBay it won't be going anywhere, the postage will be astronomical.

      1. caffeine addict Silver badge

        It'll take ages to ship, but it will arrive bloody quickly.

        Unless Hermes get involved, in which case they'll leave it on the moon. Or put it in a "safe place" in the middle of the Pacific.

        1. Holtsmark

          Nope.

          They will not be able to find the earth, claim that they visited the earth, but nobody was there to receive the asteroid, and then return it to sender.

          ..Which, for the first time in the history of mankind, would be Hermes doing something useful with a shipment...

      2. Long John Brass Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Good news everyone

        If it's on eBay it won't be going anywhere, the postage will be astronomical.

        Nah; That one is "free" delivery

    2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Depending on the metal content, might turn up at a scrap merchant.

  10. storner
    Alien

    No wonder they cannot find it

    It was a scout ship for the Klingons.

    1. cosymart
      Alien

      Re: No wonder they cannot find it

      "There's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow;

      there's Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, Jim."

      1. nagyeger

        Re: No wonder they cannot find it

        Scrape them off, Jim!

  11. John N

    Tracking data typo

    Gets to tea time on Sunday 8th Sept and they notice they've had the telescope configuration wrong. "Just pretend we haven't seen that. Too late to start telling folks anyway."

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Alien

      The colour of space, your basic space colour, is black. So how are you supposed to see them?

      RIMMER: What were they?

      HOLLY: Grit. Five specks of grit on the scanner-scope. See, the thing

      about grit is, it’s black, and the thing about scanner-scopes…

      RIMMER: Oh, shut up.

      LISTER: (Sighs.) Come on. Let’s go.

  12. ThatOne Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Uh-oh

    Jokes aside, isn't that a little worrying about our chances to detect any incoming asteroids early enough to be able to do something about them?

    Here we have a known object coming at us, and yet we can't spot it...

    .

    Somebody will retort that it's a relatively small one, the "wipe out civilization" sizes would be much easier to spot at a distance, but in this case we know it's there, we have a pretty good idea where it should be, we are actively looking for it, and yet... Besides, it might not be huge, but it is definitely inside the lower size limit of flying boulders that could ruin someone's life, and thus we'd like to be able to get some advance warning for. It puts the whole "keep an eye out for potential dangers" promise in perspective.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Uh-oh

      Jokes aside, isn't that a little worrying about our chances to detect any incoming asteroids early enough to be able to do something about them?

      Seriously, why bother looking for asteroid of doom? We can't do anything about it anyway.

      1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
        Pint

        Of course we can do something

        We need to know when the asteroid of doom needs to hit or else we won't be able to properly arrange the ultimate party in time!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Uh-oh

      "Here we have a known object coming at us, and yet we can't spot it..."

      Isn't that the point though? 10 years ago they estimated a 1:7000 chance of it hitting. Now they are looking at where it would have to be if it was actually going to hit us and they can't find it, despite knowing that they can see objects of that size at that distance. Ergo, it's not there, ie not in the area where it would have to be to hit us.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uh-oh

        "Ergo, it's not there, ie not in the area where it would have to be to hit us."

        So they should look in the other 6999 places were it misses us.

        1. aks Bronze badge

          Re: Uh-oh

          That takes time (and lots of human effort). Unless it's a solid metalic object, it's probably a rubble-pile which would break up on reaching the atmosphere. It would make a great fireworks display and probably disrupt communications worldwide but not take out London.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uh-oh

        But we can't trust todays scientists! They are full of fake news. How else do you think they get their research money, or push the socialist agenda?

        The asteroid is still there.The Chinese want you to think it's gone to lull you into a false sense of security.

        (I feel the need to add "*sarcasm*" - not because of El Reg readers, but because of the state of humanity at the moment.)

    3. Esme

      Re: Uh-oh

      @ThatONE; "Jokes aside, isn't that a little worrying about our chances to detect any incoming asteroids early enough to be able to do something about them?

      Here we have a known object coming at us, and yet we can't spot it..."

      What's so worrying? Space is really , enormously huge. Vast, even. In that immensity, a 20m bouder is teeny-tiny and difficult to spot. And, being that size, is also easily perturbed by the gravitational fields of the larger bodies in the solar system. Also easily turned into gravel by anything hitting it with enough kinetic energy. So in the 13 years where it hasn't been continuously tracked*, there are a LOT of things that might've happened to cause it to not reappear where we expect it. And if it is still intact and on-course to collide, it;s known where to look. They looked, didn;t find it. Therefore it;s either changed orbits or destroyed and in any case will not be hittin us in 2019.

      What's to worry about?

      *NB: continuous tracking would not be possible, in any case. Too few resources to do so, too many objects to track, too small, often too far away, and occassionaly the Sun gets in the line of sight...

    4. wjake

      Re: Uh-oh

      “Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.”

      Don't Panic!

      1. D@v3

        Re: Uh-oh

        just to be sure, I'm off down the pub for a couple of lunch time pints and a packet of nuts.

        1. slimshady76
          Go

          Re: Uh-oh

          It might be a little too late for a friendly reminder, but if I was you I'd check twice if my trusty towel is still in my bag.

  13. Milton Silver badge

    Gone dark?

    I cannot think of any particularly plausible mechanism for this, so I can only wonder if it is possible that a small asteroid, over the course of 13 years, might experience a dramatic decline in albedo. The ESO VLT means scientists are using passive optical telescopes to search for 2006 QV89, in which case it follows they expect the thing to reflect enough sunlight to be visible. Which led me to think that we'll all be embarrassed if the thing swam through a cloud of interplanetary cruft at some point, lost its reflectivity under, say, a layer of carbon dust, and falls into the middle of London with very little warning.

    Was ESO's IR-spectrum capability put to use as well? Might be useful insurance if not ...

    The timing could be handy, mind you: if a piece the size of a Volkswagen ground-zeroes on Downing Street, your headline might be more accurate than you ever knew.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Gone dark?

      Indeed, there would be nobody left to say 'now is not the time' so we can hold indyref2 here in Scotland, re-acquire Berwickshire and fortify the border before anybody gets a functioning govt going in London.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Gone dark?

        "Indeed, there would be nobody left to say 'now is not the time' so we can hold indyref2 here in Scotland, re-acquire Berwickshire and fortify the border before anybody gets a functioning govt going in London."

        Whaddya mean "re=aquire" Berwickshire? That's part of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria. As is Edinburgh. So bog off, we're having a vote too and we want our land back! (The English can keep Liverpool though. We're magnanimous like that and anyway, we have to have Hull (although maybe someone could aim and asteroid at Hull? ))

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Gone dark?

        before anybody gets a functioning govt going in London

        We haven't had a functioning government in London for the last three years. If you haven't been able to get your act together, liberate Berwickshire and Rebuild That Wall in that time I don't hold out much hope of you achieving anything over the next two months.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no-one outside Apple had yet heard of the iPhone

    No-one except InfoGear/Linksys/Cisco since 1998?

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linksys_iPhone

  15. Sane

    We looked really hard...

    ...to see where it would have to be in order for it to deliver a September smack and we saw nothing.

    Great. Good. Er, did you check August, October, etc?

  16. Joe Gurman

    The LGM kamikaze squad have won again

    .... engaging their cloaking device and accelerating toward an unsuspecting earth.

  17. Mayday Silver badge
    Mushroom

    This is cool

    I got led to this by some JFGI. Don't know how accurate it is however entering one's own, or someone else's apocalypse paramaters are fun.

    http://down2earth.eu/impact_calculator/planet.html?lang=en-GB

  18. nrasmussen

    Torino Scale

    The object is currently a 0 on the Torino Scale, so no need to worry about it at all.

  19. Clive Galway
    WTF?

    If you find an asteroid 13 years ago with a 1-in-7000 chance of hitting us (At a not very high level of confidence), why the fuck are you not checking up on it until a month before it might hit?

    Sounds like someone seriously dropped the ball on this one?

  20. sisk Silver badge

    I, for one, welcome our new invisible planet smashing asteroid overlord.

  21. sofaspud

    I bet Ol' Musky's car took care of it for us. Autopilot's awfully good at hitting things, after all.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe Venus Swallowed

    The asteroid....

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