back to article City-obliterating asteroid screamed past Earth the other night – and boffins only clocked it just 26 hours beforehand

An asteroid zipped past Earth on Thursday, close enough to slide in between our planet and the Moon – and nobody knew the bloody thing was coming until about a day earlier, when it was within spitting distance. If it had actually smashed into our homeworld, it could have had the same city-annihilating effect of a 5MT …

  1. HildyJ

    The truth is we didn't know anything about how many of these rocks passed close to Earth before the sky survey and while the sky survey says this asteroid has an odd orbit there may be many like it whose orbits have not come close to Earth. Yet.

    Then again, with the climate catastrophe, there will be fewer and fewer cities to destroy.

    1. Rainer

      Dinosaurs lived for hundreds of millions of years, without observing space at all.

      And the last one that finally got ‘them, well, we probably couldn’t have done anything about that one either.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        "Probably"?

        We definitely couldn't do anything about one six miles wide, unless we knew about it a century in advance. Maybe not even then.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: "Probably"?

          Nah. knowing with *that* much time is easy. A gravity tractor or painting it white one side works. It only has to miss or skim by a hair's breadth.

          That's why I hate "it would be 5mt and 1km crater and destroy lots *if* it hit us". A big "if", that's if it's exactly aimed at a city, exactly perpendicular, and not at an angle, and not an airburst, etc etc.

          Worse case scenario, we get obliterated by a nearby supernova... but then again, no stars near by are at that lifecycle of their burn.

          Likewise, most asteroids are not aimed *at* us. So we have natural laws and averages and possibilities.

          Tracking these things is good for science and knowledge. Worrying about them, or claiming they could destroy the world is fear mongering. Unless we know for certain, that would change things.

          Think of it like the Lottery. To say "I could have won", is kinda pointless... planning on what to spend it on is a waste of time. When you know you have won, that's different. Then plan. We need to only plan when we do see one heading for us.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Probably"?

            A big "if"

            The word you were looking for is "when". It's happened before and on a geological time-scale it will happen again. Being in a position to look out for them and at least think about techniques for deflecting them is something that's open to us but wasn't to the dinosaurs.

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

              Re: "Probably"?

              Or sun formed. So do I consider it not an "if" when the sun reforms but a "when"? Nope. It's an event that happens once due to specific circumstances.

              Same with asteroids. We have cleared the neighbourhood of Dinosaur ending rocks. Yes, there are others around, smaller, but also dangerous.

              Those are somewhat manageable, and somewhat not worth worrying about daily, or even in news reports.

              We've had a few, mainly damage in Russia, because it's a large populated landmass, so chances/percentages/etc mean we will see it there more often. But they were not city ending (though the one in the early 1900s would of, if it hit a city).

              Volcanoes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Forest fires, Virus outbreaks, Heatwaves, Flooding. Those. Those happen near enough daily to (different) populated areas. Those we may need to focus effort on. Not rocks orbiting far away.

              1. JLV Silver badge

                Re: "Probably"?

                Not really. You have very little to back up “we've cleared”. The big C one we all know about was 65M years ago which isn’t that old in a 4000M timeframe, so saying the cosmos has “shot its wad by now” doesn’t do it.

                What we do know is that big C nearly wiped out all life on Terra. It’s a remote risk but truly existential. Even runaway global warming, much more likely, doesn’t reach that: oh, it may extinguish thousands of species and displace, if not kill, millions. But humans will still be there, with our trusty roaches and rats as companions.

                A good deal of prevention dovetails nicely with better near-space exploration/imaging, which is worthwhile in itself. We don’t need to spend _that_ much money either: you’re basically putting up telescopes, tracking, cataloging and analyzing. A good chunk of that effort is computing which is cheap. Given enough lead time, even C could be deflected with our current tech (we’d “only” have to develop new engineering for it) and that will only improve. And even a city-killer would be nice to avoid.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: What about auto-updates?

                @TechnicalBen It does not look like your comment would withstand any scientific rigour.

                It's a philosophical one - with more faith than science - just built on the faith that the dinosaurs got the worst of it and further space threats don't exist.

                And so it will all be alright.

                (Building on that idea, for the suitably inclined, God is watching over us and perhaps this is a reminder to spend more time in devotion and piety??)

                I for one would like scientists to continue looking and figuring it out.. problems from space and on earth..

                1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

                  Re: What about auto-updates?

                  No science? So, can we stop something like the one that took out the dinosaurs with no warning?

                  I already mentioned that a gravity tractor/painting the rock is just about doable with today's tech, providing we get an early warning.

                  Other than that, why worry? Why panic, and why give people strange ideas.

                  As with supernova, the problem is technically there, the worry is not.

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge
                    Pint

                    Re: What about auto-updates?

                    Other than that, why worry? Why panic, and why give people strange ideas.

                    I wish I could give you so many more of these!

                    There is so much fear in the world today. So much stuff being promoted that is leading to kids taking their lives, people giving up - people overwhelmed with the fearmongering that is going on.

                    There is a lot to be scared of as well, but there's really not much we can do about any of it.

                    Me - I do things that are considered dangerous. I enjoy getting out on my motorbike. An errant driver could put me in a bed for the rest of my life at a moment's notice, and an errant tyre? Despite all my efforts, despite all my training, I doubt I'd have avoided that one.

                    So here's what I do. I wear safety gear, I keep my bike maintained, I keep my eyes active, and I plan escape routes. It's probably less than one in a million riders who get caught out by a flying tyre, but lots of us get taken out by someone not checking before changing lanes - so I prepare for what I can manage, do what I can to mitigate the harm from what I can't, and enjoy my life.

                    I can't do squat about the climate, even if I did believe all the rubbish about 'carbon'. But... I do what I can to minimise waste, I grow my own food where I can, reuse and recycle, keep things as efficient as I can. I'm doing far more than most of the "climate emergency" types yet I'm not even trying. And I'm not doing it because I believe in the "global warming" guff, I'm doing it because I like things to be efficient, I like to conserve resources, and I absolutely fucking HATE pollution! And it's fun, and cheaper as well.

                    Get people living a decent efficient life WITHOUT the fear, and you'll not need all the bullshit and lies. Make it enjoyable to change, not something people are forced to do. Make the change the enjoyable option.

                    Thanks for being one of the few sensible voices out there. Of all the scary stuff happening in the world today, the biggest one for me is the way that so much fear is being promoted.

                    (And to turn things horribly religious and nasty Christian etc - in the Bible there is the prophecy that in the end days we will see "men fainting with fear, at the roaring of the sea, and the waves". Yes, we're seeing that happening right now!)

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: What about auto-updates?

                      @Kiwi

                      >> There is so much fear in the world today.

                      I assume you imply relative to some other period in the past?

                      In any case this is just an opinion, not fact.

                      There is a difference in what the public should do, and what scientists should do.

                      Taking on the theme of fear, scientists are the ones who factually define what is worth fearing.

                      Your point is about how the public processes fear, and there, the factual data scientists provide is what separates fear mongering from what is necessary to bring people together and seek solutions.

                      This is not about fear, but awareness. There is a choice to be afraid, but there cannot be about awareness.

                      You're for eg are able to understand that recycling and reusing help. That was the work of some scientists. You though pick and choose, and choose to ignore the mechanism. For eg washing hands are simple steps that awareness creates.

                      They might come up with a technique to help you recycle something new. If everyone just said all the current recycling is enough, nothing new is needed, the damage caused by what we send to the landfill does not matter, we've done what we can, nothing would improve.

                      BTW, Isn't this just hubris though?

                      We need scientists, philosophers, ethicists to all spent time to understand the world and society around us, including mistakes and offer solutions.

                      Celebrating an ostrich head in the sand aproach might be great for an individiual in advantageous circumstances, but does little for those in the world order who don't get to ignore.

                      As for the bible,

                      >>"men fainting with fear, at the roaring of the sea, and the waves". Yes, we're seeing that happening right now!)

                      takes significant interpretative licence, as almost everything with religious texts do. I'd be interested in some photos or news articles of this, as you claim it is "happening right now" - perhaps with some the women and kids and watching this.

                      And if we go by the rest of it, "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." Any moment now then - ooh how exciting... send more men to faint :)

                      1. Kiwi Silver badge

                        Re: What about auto-updates?

                        @Kiwi

                        >> There is so much fear in the world today.

                        I assume you imply relative to some other period in the past?

                        In any case this is just an opinion, not fact.

                        Well.. You can look at the US history during much of the 1900s - when wars were distant things not likely to affect their shores directly (we had much the same here) and there was the military might and will to keep it that way, food and work were plentiful for the vast majority. Much of Europe has had times when the greatest fear was finding food and clothing to get through the winter, but anything in the sky was harmless and the climate - even when there were significant changes for a season - was something you adapted to and survived. Lots of times and lots of places, even in my lifetime, where we had good security and little to fear.

                        The 'climate' industry however is seriously ramping up the fear mongering and this is causing huge problems for a lot of people. These liars have blood on their hands, and much of that is the blood of kids who've taken their own lives out of despair of what they believe is coming on the world.

                        There is a difference in what the public should do, and what scientists should do.

                        Taking on the theme of fear, scientists are the ones who factually define what is worth fearing.

                        Except, when it comes to so-called 'climate scientists', they're not. Especially with all the rubbish about carbon/CO2. That is about as important to our lives as clean water is, for it makes up much of what we are and much of what we eat. Take too much of it out of the atmosphere and all life on earth ends. Put more of it in the atmosphere, and we get what we're seeing today - greening of formerly dead areas, improvements in crop growth and so on (of course they also need other nutrients to go with it, but you cannot grow a tree without several tons of carbon in the air for it to extract!)

                        Your point is about how the public processes fear, and there, the factual data scientists provide is what separates fear mongering from what is necessary to bring people together and seek solutions.

                        Thus far, much of what is suggested is more damaging to the environment - such as 'wind power', and the mis-handling of EV's. Electric cars are great and I'm all for them, but to have one in every garage we need to also build more power plants (maybe NZ can finally get some nukes!), need to improve the power infrastructure (new power lines etc meaning much digging up of roads etc), and there's the problem of disposing of the waste from the cars that are replaced by EVs. If people were replacing dead cars with EV's that'd be fine - getting them in as part of the replacement lifecycle. Replacing them coz the government or greens say you have to? That's very bad for the environment.

                        Oh, there's of course the batteries and the mining of the chemicals etc associated with them - a cost for 'green technology' I seldom see reported on - the mining and transport of materials, dealing with waste, construction and so on. Lots of badness there.

                        These 'solutions' are doing a hell of a lot more harm than good. Just look at the 'bio fuel' craze of a few years back, and how much damage that was doing (and the great potential for greater damage had we not wised up!)

                        This is not about fear, but awareness. There is a choice to be afraid, but there cannot be about awareness.

                        Actually most people don't need to be 'aware', just given better options. Make the EV nicer than the gasser, then people will buy the EV rather than the gasser. Make it cheaper to insulate your home than to heat it, and make good effective and affordable solutions for those building from scratch.

                        I live a 'green lifestyle' because it's a more enjoyable and affordable option. I take great pride in being able to grow my own food, to process my own water for my gardens (and a large emergency supply should it be needed), to be living efficiently. I enjoy the taste of what I grow myself. I love breathing clean air, and do what I can to ensure my neighbours get the same enjoyment as well.

                        I don't do 'green' because it's fashionable. I don't have any concern for future generations (well I do, I also get upset at the world they'll get - but that's only if the greenies get their way and really mess things up!) I live the way I do because it's cheap, tasty and fun. If I can change because I'm introduced to something enjoyable then so can others. If you were to try to force me to do this I'd rebel, have outdoor fireplaces that I insist on using to heat my patio in winter (and burn through a forest or two every day to keep warm outside), I'd not bother to keep my cars or bikes running well, and I'd be less inclined to do the many other things I do that make my part of the world less polluted - instead of cleaning up the rubbish in the back yard and disposing of things properly I'd dig a hole and let the next generation deal with my waste; instead of buying bags and paying disposal fees I'd be buying petrol and movie tickets. And gas bottles for my patio heaters.

                        You're for eg are able to understand that recycling and reusing help. That was the work of some scientists. You though pick and choose, and choose to ignore the mechanism. For eg washing hands are simple steps that awareness creates.

                        Not quite sure I can follow that passage.. Can you try to rephrase perhaps? But I am off the land - from farming stock. Recycling and reusing is a standard practice amongst farmers dating back to before we were small groups wandering open lands with our small flocks. It was a common practice long before we had any scientists - before even the famed Greek philosophers. Scientists have been needed to help us better handle some things, but recyling was an old practice before the first 'true scientist' was born.

                        BTW, Isn't this just hubris though?

                        We need scientists, philosophers, ethicists to all spent time to understand the world and society around us, including mistakes and offer solutions.

                        The big problem though, is not just whether or not we should ignore things - but whether or not the stuff we're doing is going to make things much much worse. Bio fuel and wind turbines are just two environmental disasters coming out of the "We must do something!!!" brigades. There will be much worse still to come. Our children (not that I am likely to have any) will inherit economies ruined by laws that at best do nothing at all, but at worst cause severe harm to the lands and seas they're claiming to protect.

                        I doubt there is a problem. I look around the coastline at stuff built over a hundred years ago where the MSL is the same today as it was back then. I listen to the scaremongering that says "Lower Hutt will be engulfed by sea level rises by 2015" and yet I see that the Petone Wharf is still the same height above the sea today as when it was built in 1907 (IIRC). I'm told this is because the sea levels have risen, but "isostatic rebound" just happens to magically exactly match the rate of sea level rise.

                        Every single predicted disaster has failed to happen. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, and yet we're raising our kids in a climate of fear telling them then we have "just 12 years" to prevent it. Like they were saying 20 years ago how we only had a decade, or 30 years ago how we had little hope of averting a new ice age. Every single prediction has failed. Yet we're supposed to make massive changes to our economies, industries, ecologies and our very lives to avert yet another threatened disaster.

                        There is something very very wrong when this many failures are missed. What do you think of those who're constantly saying "the rapture is going to happen on such and such a date" and yet when it doesn't happen, they give some feeble excuse and change to another date. The climate scaremongers are exactly the same. And we should ignore their pile of lies for the same reasons.

                        As for the bible,

                        >>"men fainting with fear, at the roaring of the sea, and the waves". Yes, we're seeing that happening right now!)

                        takes significant interpretative licence, as almost everything with religious texts do. I'd be interested in some photos or news articles of this, as you claim it is "happening right now" - perhaps with some the women and kids and watching this.

                        Well.. You could try looking up some news reports. Perhaps shove "climate fear" into DDG or something like that. Here, let me do it for you even...

                        2,000 years ago this prediction was made and we're seeing it happen with much more accuracy than even the tamest of the climate alarmists. I'll believe their rubbish when I see it. Till then, I'll keep living a clean and eco-friendly lifestyle.

                        I must really upset some of these greenies.. I live a life they can barely get to in their wildest dreams, yet because I don't buy the FUD of the climate scaremongers I must be a nasty person. I’m greener than them yet I’m a nasty denier!

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Re: What about auto-updates?

                          You're mixing your own opinions with facts - the language gives it away. It reads as "They're wrong, but I've got it right"

                          >> I doubt there is a problem.

                          >> Every single predicted disaster has failed to happen.

                          Well - How about chernobyl and fukushima?

                          Yes green eco warriors can be a problem - but your reaction to therefore dismiss all the related science entirely is one arising from emotion (i.e. your disagreement with 'greenies').

                          Which means you lose the discipline needed to seek facts amongst that noise...

                          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                            Re: What about auto-updates?

                            "Well - How about chernobyl and fukushima?"

                            Neither one of them was really a disaster. Chernobyl could have been, but Fukushima wasn't even close.

                          2. Kiwi Silver badge

                            Re: What about auto-updates?

                            You're mixing your own opinions with facts - the language gives it away. It reads as "They're wrong, but I've got it right"

                            >> I doubt there is a problem.

                            >> Every single predicted disaster has failed to happen.

                            Well, if they're right, how come I can stand on Petone beach at the low-tide mark of 1907 and not get my feet wet, let alone being completely below water? It's a simple test. Did what we were told was to happen happen? If it did, they're right. If it didn't, I'm right.

                            Well - How about chernobyl and fukushima?

                            I could be mistaken but.. Wasn't the former the result of a series of human errors (the first of which not having checks in place to prevent the latter from being a problem), and the other not exactly a disaster? I count physicists amongst my friends, one of whom went from NZ to Japan to study the results of the failure of Fukushima. He lived near and worked in the remains of the plant for some months. After he returned we shared many meals and tales together (along with others). Quite an interesting experience really, we didn't need lights or candles and he cooked our food just by placing his hands on it, he'd absorbed that much radiation.. No wait, actually there was such a low level of radioactive material released that the area was quite safe once things were under control.

                            Yes green eco warriors can be a problem - but your reaction to therefore dismiss all the related science entirely is one arising from emotion (i.e. your disagreement with 'greenies').

                            Which means you lose the discipline needed to seek facts amongst that noise...

                            Thing is.. I don't dismiss the science. I actually look into it and spend time reading it or watching material on it. I also go and do my own measurements as well, even if I just eyeball them - like stand on the Petone foreshore and see - the predictions say I should be well under water, yet I'm standing on the shoreline that has been there for over 100 years - either I have bloody good scuba gear on or the predictions are wrong. If the predicted sea level rises aren't happening to the level of the prediction, then the model, the maths behind the model, and whatever 'science' was used is wrong. That's the basic scientific method, come up with an idea from observing stuff, come up with a way to test the idea, if the test fails then the idea (or sometimes the test) is wrong. The idea - Petone and Lower Hutt would disappear under massive sea level rises that should've occurred years ago. The test - see if Petone is below water. The observation - Petone is still as far above sea level as it was in 1907. The result - the idea that Petone would be under water by now is wrong

                            As I've said previously, because of my green leanings I used to be pro wind, anti nuke, and anti CO2. I was challenged to look at the wind/nuke issue and learned just how bad wind turbines are and how safe and clean nukes are. I wanted to prove him wrong and do a decent job of it, and to embarrass him in the sight of others as well when I could show just how stupidly wrong he was, and how evil nukes were and how much he hated NZ. I did much the same for CO2 as well.

                            Hence my stance and practice (although that was largely formed by living in a farming community) - do what I can to protect and improve my environment, and make sure what I am doing is going to be helpful not harmful. How many large potential crop yields have been wiped out because of someone getting an idea wrong? I've done it myself, a garden go from booming to rotting in a matter of weeks because I screwed up something small.

                            It does take some guts to get away from whatever agendas are behind the 'global warming' rubbish and look at what is really best for the planet. Fashion-followers will universally want to be cruel to you while failing to even begin to look at things, and you have to associate with some nasty people on this side of the fence as well. But my conscience is clean - yes the climate will change, yes oceans will rise and fall, yes species and civilisations will disappear, and yes, the most harm we will do is if we let the greenies have their way, or we keep on polluting and wasting resources like we do.

                        2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                          Re: What about auto-updates?

                          Kiwi - I'm starting to think you are actually me! :-)

                          1. Kiwi Silver badge
                            Pint

                            Re: What about auto-updates?

                            Kiwi - I'm starting to think you are actually me! :-)

                            I'm known for taking things to extremes.. But a split-personality that's split across hemispheres??? :)

                            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                              Re: What about auto-updates?

                              Maybe our photons are just entangled :-)

                              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                                Pint

                                Re: What about auto-updates?

                                Maybe our photons are just entangled :-)

                                I did an interesting experiment once.. Had a very close friend over in Canada - quite a ways from NZ. I suggested that we each note down when we thought of saying something to the other person, including the time of day. The numbers were quite high, perhaps around 70% over the course of a few weeks. We corrected our times to GMT (ie NZ was +12 so I took 12 hours off, not sure what his region was but he adjusted up or down to match GMT).

                                This was inspired by the memory of another close school friend, where when we were alone we'd very often start to say the same thing at the same time. This would occur when we were fishing or biking and hadn't spoken for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, then out of the blue we would both speak the same words simultaneously. In that case I put it down to brains being partly electrical, electrical devices give off radiation, so maybe we were literally "on the same wavelength' and one of us was able to be influenced by the other's radiation. But I doubt that holds true for more than a few metres apart at most (in fact I'd be surprised if it could work more than a couple of inches apart!), let alone NZ to Canada!

                                I also knew the moment my fiancée got the news her father had died, even though we were 20 miles apart. He'd been ill and was in hospital up country. I just got this sense of deep sorrow and dread come on my suddenly, realised what it was, phoned her and said "I know, I'm on my way".

                                There's plenty of fairly well documented other cases of stuff like this - perhaps quantum entanglement is an explanation, although having detectors in our brains that could handle such things stretches credulity a fair bit. But then we still know so very little about what God put in us and how it works! :)

                        3. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Re: What about auto-updates?

                          "Electric cars are great and I'm all for them, but to have one in every garage we need to also build more power plants (maybe NZ can finally get some nukes!), need to improve the power infrastructure (new power lines etc meaning much digging up of roads etc), and there's the problem of disposing of the waste from the cars that are replaced by EVs. If people were replacing dead cars with EV's that'd be fine - getting them in as part of the replacement lifecycle. Replacing them coz the government or greens say you have to? That's very bad for the environment."

                          The power plants are the easy part.

                          Someone ran the numbers for materials for making the annual replacement vehicles in the UL battery EVs.

                          Turns out that to manage the annual turnover of vehicles in the UK by 2035 assuming the vast majority (87%?) were battery powered, would require:

                          Copper equal to world production in 2018

                          Aluminum equal to about 28% of world production in 2018

                          Graphite - about 2.5 times world production

                          nickel - about 1.2 times world production

                          cobalt - more than 6 times world production

                          lithium - more than 4 times world production.

                          This is for .001 of the world's population.

                          Of course, this does not appear to take into account massive increases in power production and distribution infrastructure.

                          Battery packs also have a limited life. When they are dead, they might be recycled... except that recycled lithium costs five times as much as new lithium... and recycling doesn't remove enough of the manufacturing additives to result in lithium that can be used for batteries.

                          Estimates are that, even with the insignificant market penetration of EVs, 2025 will see an 11 million ton accumulation of dead lithium ion batteries.

                          It is interesting to note that in 2011 there were estimates that 7% of the vehicles sold worldwide would be EV or H/EV.

                          Even so, Deutsche Bank estimates that increased lithium consumption has pushed up the price by 150% since 2013. Of course, increasing production could moderate that a bit... or at least act as a drag on price increases.

                          Apparently one of the easier ways to speed lithium production is to heat the brine pools, presumably with fossil fuels. Note that extracting a tonne of lithium takes roughly 1,850,000 litres of water, for the brine evaporation method.

                          The Union of Concerned Scientists found the carbon footprint for producing an EV is much greater than manufacturing an IC powered vehicle, an increase equivalent to half the lifetime carbon footprint of the IC vehicle. But IIRC, the lifetime of an EV battery pack is less than the average lifetime of an IC vehicle... perhaps as little as half as much. That would suggest that the EV lifetime carbon footprint, overall, is the same as an IC powered vehicle... again, it is not clear if infrastructure carbon footprints were taken into account. In any case, EVs could become much more expensive, both in dollars and environmental damage, as they become more numerous.

                          The energy density of a battery is roughly 1% that of petroleum based fuels. Implications about range, recharging infrastructure, and the like are left to the alert reader, and will vary considerably from country to country and application to application.

                          Major highways, particularly in larger countries than the UK would require a huge number of charging stations, closely spaced, wired for many megawatts of continuous power. Winter time can cut range to about a third, meaning recharging every 150 km for a car that can nominally go 400km, according to the manufacturer. Compared to petroleum vehicles that can go 800 to 1000 km on a tank, and can fill up in a few minutes, and need no more distribution infrastructure than the road being serviced, the number of charging stations would be huge - charging 6 times as often as filling tanks, and taking five times as long to charge, would require 600 charging stations to replace every 20 pumps. Maybe charging time could be reduced, but if that means doubling the power feed to the service plazas, it may be impractical.

                          Note that the number of pumps is partially conditioned by the fact that few vehicles have to refuel at all on trips of less than 600 km, so a major route between two cities 500 km apart will mainly have fueling facilities for vehicles on long trips, or that started out without adequate fuel. The vast majority will not normally be using the more expensive on highway service centres. A cold winter trip of that distance could mandate 3 or more recharges for pretty much every vehicle, so pump counting could underestimate the number of charging stations needed by a large factor.

                          On a more positive note, Greta Thunberg has apparently found the low carbon way to cross the Atlantic. All you need is a couple of weeks, a crew, a film director, and a 60 foot racing sailboat, which one must presume was constructed with surplus straw after the wheat harvest, to minimize its carbon footprint. Now all we have to do is build a few million 60 foot racing sailboats so everyone can be environmentally correct.

                          1. Kiwi Silver badge
                            Pint

                            Re: What about auto-updates?

                            Someone ran the numbers for materials for making the annual replacement vehicles in the UL battery EVs.

                            Thanks very much for posting this. This is why "green solutions" scare me - they seem really great until you sit down and do the numbers.

                            Many years back I was sold on the basic idea of hybrids when I got a ride in a diesel-electric locomotive (double-header towing around 100 trucks worth of wagons - yes I am very much pro-rail for cross-country transport!). The train was travelling along a relatively flat section of track, running at top speed (somewhere in the 80-100kph region IIRC), and the big powerful engines were barely ticking over. They only needed to generate enough electricity to keep the momentum going, unlike a petrol or diesel engine that'd be loaded up a fair bit more with spinning the gearbox and turning engine over at a matching speed (I think my car does 4,000rpm in top gear at highway speed, it cannot go any slower at that speed, but a hybrid could idle and keep the car moving)

                            Copper equal to world production in 2018

                            Aluminum equal to about 28% of world production in 2018

                            When I first read the numbers they were scary enough. But then I did a post-coffee re-read and saw what I missed. That's just for the UK!

                            I'll re-iterate. Green solutions often appear great at first glance, but when you crunch the numbers, they can get terrifying real quick.

                            That doesn't mean we shouldn't be working on research, even if a lot of research effort gets wasted. We need better tech or much less population, and while I know there are claims that the latter is the UN's goal I myself am much against the wholesale killing of people (although lowering the global birth rate would be a useful thing to do! - a generation or two of below-replacement birth rates before bringing it up to only replacement levels would be useful - or find another planet we can move the excess population to)

                            WRT numbers, I found the same thing with wind turbines :( They looked so magnificent and promising until I learned what the cost :(

                            Thanks again for posting those numbers.

                        4. BuckeyeB

                          Re: What about auto-updates?

                          I also notice that they're anonymous while you are not. I'm with you there. I don't buy the climate hype. I personally believe that we're just in a cycle that will shift again. I also agree that many fixes have made things worse. And I also believe that it is all about power and control. Make the people do what you want through fear and legislation.

                          1. Kiwi Silver badge
                            Pint

                            Re: What about auto-updates?

                            I also notice that they're anonymous while you are not. I'm with you there. I don't buy the climate hype.

                            Thanks.

                            Some of my earlier posts on it were AC, and that because I expected some abuse from some quarters. But I decided I stand by what I say and I'm plenty strong enough to take it. And perhaps by standing by what I say and showing that you can live a very green life without resorting to fear I might encourage others to start to change.

                            I love my land. I love being able to sit in my lounge in the morning and watch the sun rise over the green hills nearby. I love the song of the native birds around me (and the non-native ones as well). To protect this, I must do things that are good for it. But I don't want to become depressed and bitter leading a hard life while others appear to enjoy theirs, so I looked at what I can do that's easy and found many ways to both save money and save the environment while also having fun. Some of the most costly changes I make are simple things like turning down the heat and putting on some extra clothing.

                            When the fearmongers who spout "12 years to save the planet" etc live as though they actually believe what they say, then I'll pay more attention to them. When someone like me lives greener than them, you know they don't believe they lies or are unwilling to make changes to their own lives.

                            That's the biggest tell of all. So few of them live as if they believe it.

                  2. The First Dave Silver badge

                    Re: What about auto-updates?

                    For those that are interested, God personally told me that we need to spend more money on science.

                    1. Kiwi Silver badge
                      Boffin

                      Re: What about auto-updates?

                      For those that are interested, God personally told me that we need to spend more money on science.

                      If He told you that personally, then He's trying to get your attention since obviously you've not been paying attention to Him or His Word and have been neglecting some of your duties.

                      (There's more than one place in the Bible where we're told to study, to learn, to understand - to do science. The "scientific method" was developed by men wanting to follow these instructions in a worthy manner)

                  3. BuckeyeB
                    Mushroom

                    Re: What about auto-updates?

                    Would we be able to calculate whether it would "hit" the planet versus just skipping off the atmosphere?

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: What about auto-updates?

                  Hell, I'm not a scientist and his blather doesn't stand up to my rigour.

              3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: "Probably"?

                "Those we may need to focus effort on. Not rocks orbiting far away."

                A. Doing one thing doesn't mean not doing othes.

                B. It's the rocks orbiting too close we need to worry about, not those orbiting far away.

                1. DJV Silver badge

                  Far away

                  I remember something about things small or far away. What was it, again...?

                  Ah yes

              4. Avatar of They

                Re: "Probably"?

                Erm you make massive assumptions with little or no evidence.

                For example you assume there are no events that create asteroids, such as collisions happening out in the asteroid belt.

                You assume there are nothing coming at us from outside our solar system that we can't detect, to infect the cleared area.

                You assume our technology works to detect them accurately (where is planet x for example).

                You assume our knowledge of science is infallible so we know how they are formed 100% and we know where and how to look 100%. (Article suggests it came from the wrong direction and we ignored the first hints it was coming)

                You also assume that Dinosaurs had only the one massive meteorite hit. There could have been hundred, thousands over the millions of years that killed entire countries worth and we simply can't tell / Or they hit the oceans and nothing happened.

                And once the dinosaurs were gone you assume we didn't suffer more of the same. Before humanity started recording history and putting people into the remote places that might have suffered a hit..

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: "Probably"?

                  "You also assume that Dinosaurs had only the one massive meteorite hit."

                  The sheer number of craters around tells us there have been lots - and the size of them would be city/region killers there days. Some of them are "natural bowls" that now hold major cities. (brownie points if you can find the one in Germany)

                  Even Barringer Crater would have been a city-killer and that wasn't a particularly large chunk of rock (It's one of the best preserved impact craters around and only 50k years old)

                  1. goodjudge

                    Re: "Probably"?

                    "brownie points if you can find the one in Germany"

                    The Nördlinger Ries, of course.

                    (Mine's the one with a copy of Julian May's The Many Colored Land in the pocket...)

                  2. The First Dave Silver badge

                    Re: "Probably"?

                    We also need to be honest about these things - the animation clearly shows that it was Earth that screamed past this rock, not the other way around. If we _had_ collided, it would have been Earth that was 'at fault' according to the insurance people.

                    1. Kiwi Silver badge
                      Pint

                      Re: "Probably"?

                      If we _had_ collided, it would have been Earth that was 'at fault' according to the insurance people.

                      Nah, maritime and motorcycling rules apply here. Maritime rules say the smaller gives way to the larger, and motorcycling survival says "If it's bigger then you then get out of it's bloody way!"

                2. BuckeyeB

                  Re: "Probably"?

                  Did they downgrade Planet X to dwarf planet too ?

          2. NorthIowan

            Re: "We need to only plan when we do see one heading for us."

            There is not an emergency right now. But I'd rather some people do some planning now so there are options that are reasonably well thought out so they know the various advantages and disadvantages of the different plans.

            Better to do that now while everyone is thinking clearly then waiting till everyone's every other thought is "we are all going to die" if they don't get it right. Less likely anyone picks a knee jerk dumb plan that makes it all worse.

          3. DougS Silver badge

            Re: "Probably"?

            knowing with *that* much time is easy

            If it was in a 100 year elliptical orbit we'd find out about it too late to catch up to it on the way out, and wouldn't have anywhere near enough to time to do anything about it on the way back.

            Sure, if it had a simple Earth-like orbit that brought it in our neighborhood every few years it would give us easy access, but there's zero chance of a rock that big being in our neighborhood without us noticing. It would have to be in a long duration elliptical orbit to be so large without us having seen it before.

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

              Re: "Probably"?

              That's the problem. Rocks we cannot do anything about now, we probably would not be able to do anything about ever.

              Worry about the problems we can tackle now. Research the others. But why claim "it might destroy the world" on what ifs in the news?

          4. rsole

            Re: "Probably"?

            Not really like a lottery. If it was large enough then we either all win or all lose and I really don't like those odds.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Probably"?

          "We definitely couldn't do anything about one six miles wide, unless we knew about it a century in advance. Maybe not even then."

          On the contrary, with 20 years notice we have the technology to deal with it handily. We'd have to build a spaceship or two, and a fair number of nuclear or thermonuclear bombs, but the rest is easy:

          1) Build two or three Orion drive ships.

          2) Decide which way you want to deflect the asteroid.

          3) Attach one of the ships to the asteroid in an appropriate spot.

          4) Commence vector change.

          5) Use other ships to replenish bomb supply.

          6) If necessary, launch replacement pusher plates.

          7) Replace plates and bomb handling gear as needed.

          8) Push until desired orbit achieved.

          9) Park three or four Orions in orbit, just in case the warning comes later the next time.

          Or we can come up with a fusion pulse drive instead, that should also do it, but it requires tech we don't have yet.

    2. Blackjack

      But the cities that are left will have more and more people.

      And you are more likely to have your home kill you or die from a car crash, than from asteroid.

    3. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      I assumed it would be 'flagged' automatically.

  2. tfewster Silver badge

    Nominative determinism?

    Asteroid 2019 OK - Sounds OK

    Asteroids 2019 AI/NO/OOF/NBG/ICRAS etc. - Sound like trouble

    1. regregular

      Re: Nominative determinism?

      Asteroid 2020 OMG/WTF would worry me.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Nominative determinism?

        Sort of a Russell's teapot but more ...

        Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ?

    2. Reg Reader 1

      Re: Nominative determinism?

      I'm glad it wasn't Asteroid 2019 KO, that would've been trouble.

  3. shedied

    Overheard at a Brazilian observatory

    It's coming right for us!

    Be quiet, will you? Don't you have any other English sentences to practice with? I swear, if I hear it one more time...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Overheard at a Brazilian observatory

      ... and after it passed "that was a close shave"

  4. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) project did observe it earlier in July and the data was logged. It’s just nobody flagged it up.

    So what are they fucking doing all night in Hawaii?

    And as for the comment about if it hit the sea and caused a non fatality tsunami, when was the last tsunami recorded that wasn't lethal to communities living on the coast?

    1. Bill Gray

      And in further 50/50 hindsight, PanSTARRS (one of the two biggest asteroid surveys currently going, also in Hawaii) dug through their archived data and found out they'd gotten in on 28 June and 7 July.

      In each of those cases, and the ATLAS case, it was a short time span of observation. Long enough to show you that something was moving at a certain rate across the sky, but nothing terribly unusual about it... almost certainly just another bit of rock, probably out past Mars.

      By the time SONEAR saw it, the object was about two million km away, call it five times the distance to the moon, and was moving along the sky fairly fast. They reported it as S511618 ("temporary designation" assigned by the discover.)

      About ten hours later, the ASAS-SN folks saw it, now only about 1.3 million km away. After a pause (they don't usually track asteroids and had to look up the procedures for reporting one; they're variable star and supernova folk), they reported that they'd found a new object, with _their_ temporary designation assasn3. They observed it from both Texas and Hawaii, which was good; you get some parallax, which tells you how far away the object is. (We almost never get that; we have to rely on more indirect methods.)

      Shortly after that, somebody noticed that you could link the observations for S511618 to those for assasn3. I was a little skeptical about this (not much data to work with, and it could have been a chance alignment), but if it _was_ a real link, it should be possible for somebody to observe it and get more data. Alerts went out to amateurs. I was hoping somebody in southern Europe or Africa would get it. (There are some observatories in South Africa that were ideally situated for this.)

      And in fact, some observers in Italy and Ukraine _did_ get more data (not easy; the object was low in their skies.) But before then, ATLAS and PanSTARRS went back through their old data and realized they'd gotten the object days/weeks earlier.

      This business of figuring out which objects are likely to hit and which aren't isn't easy. Sometimes, we get the data we need and it all lines up beautifully. Sometimes, we don't.

      I should note that after it flew past us and was too close to the sun for any optical telescope to observe it, Arecibo got some echoes off it. That's helped to nail down the orbit. Haven't heard if we'll get images from it (which was the main reason Arecibo pinged it).

      1. Joe W Silver badge
        Pint

        Thanks for the background info!

        Cool to get some insight into how this went. Grab a cold one (there's more in the fridge...)

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        It does mean we're getting a _little_ better at spotting them.

        Usually we see them AFTER they've skimmed past earth and are receeding before we've managed to put 2+2 together on observational data.

        Although, that said, this near miss was whilst it was sunbound and we ignore far too many such rocks until they've rounded the corner and whizz past us on the way out (see above).

        Before anyone asks why they're hard to spot: Very dark objects (coal black), very dark background, and when they're coming at us on the outbound path, very bright light behind them - allocating money to doing this shit properly isn't "sexy" for politicians or military wonks, as much as it's needed (even if we can't dodge/shift the rocks, with sufficient warnings you know it isn't a military attack and you may be able to make preparations/evacuations for smaller impacts.)

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: It does mean we're getting a _little_ better at spotting them.

          Before anyone asks why they're hard to spot: Very dark objects (coal black), very dark background

          So... When did Holly start running these things?

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: It does mean we're getting a _little_ better at spotting them.

          In other words, "Begging your pardon sir, but its a big ass sky"

          1. BuckeyeB

            Re: It does mean we're getting a _little_ better at spotting them.

            "That's why they call it space. Because there is so much of it."

        3. Morten Bjoernsvik

          Re: It does mean we're getting a _little_ better at spotting them.

          From the first observations and the velocity they should be able to predict that the orbit was very close to earth.

        4. BuckeyeB
          Happy

          Re: It does mean we're getting a _little_ better at spotting them.

          >>>> this near miss was whilst it was sunbound

          It was a near hit. A near miss would be a hit. :)

    2. Annihilator

      "when was the last tsunami recorded that wasn't lethal to communities living on the coast?"

      Well they tend not to record them... ocean-based landslides and earthquakes happen all year round and all cause some level of water displacement. The point in the article is this asteroid wouldn't have created significant enough energy in the sea and would likely dissipate to non-lethal levels (I assume the dissipation is in line with the inverse square law).

      A 5 megaton TNT equivalent impact is nothing compared to the levels of energy in the earthquakes that drive the tsunamis you've heard of. It's equivalent to a 4.0 earthquake, which broadly happen very frequently around the world with little to no damage. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was driven by a 9.0 earthquake.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Tsunamis actually are solitons, they don't disperse but keep together. Cool maths behind that. Technically they are shallow water waves, if I recall correctly.

        1. The First Dave Silver badge

          Yes, Tsunami's DO dissipate, according to the inverse square law, but basically as two-dimensional objects, not as three-dimensional.

      2. Stork Silver badge

        Not so many years ago Tavira experienced a 1.5m tsunami afair. Enough to register and make your feet wet, rarely fatal..

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          1.5m aimed up the Bristol channel would be a killer. Its all about luck in these things. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_Channel_floods,_1607

    3. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      And as for the comment about if it hit the sea and caused a non fatality tsunami, when was the last tsunami recorded that wasn't lethal to communities living on the coast?

      Well.. There was that tiddler after the Kaikoura quake.

      Think we had a couple after recent Chilean quakes as well, whereas while the quake was bad the resulting tsunami didn't do much harm.

    4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      It’s just nobody flagged it up.

      ... which was a pity because it was exactly the sort of thing they'd been looking for all these years.

  5. ThatOne Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Not very reassuring, is it

    Well, so much for our capacity to detect them in time. IIRC it's the second one which just evades detection till the last (potentially, for some people) minute...

    All right, it was smallish one, but still. On one side we have solutions which take months if not years to be readied, on the other we miss to see incoming boulders and/or lose track of those we were already expecting. I for one would be very annoyed if one morning there was a kilometer-sized crater in my residential block.

    1. Bill Gray

      Re: Not very reassuring, is it

      Kilometer-sized ones are no longer considered much of a problem; we have about 90% of them tracked, none of which are going to hit in the next century. (We know we're at about 90% because when we find a 'new' one, it usually turns out to be one we already knew about; it's getting tough to make discoveries at such sizes.)

      Completion at smaller sizes is nowhere near as good. The big surveys (Catalina Sky Survey, PanSTARRS, ATLAS, ZTF) observe for a couple of weeks around new moon. They can't get much near full moon and, obviously, nothing in daytime. (Radar is nearly useless for discoveries -- zero made thus far -- but it's _very_ useful for improving orbits and characterizing objects afterward.) The object that hit Chelyabinsk, for example, came from the direction of the sun; Catalina was observing the previous night, but there was no possible way for it to detect it.

      There have been ideas/plans to put a spacecraft at the Earth-Sun L1 point, the one about 1.5 million km closer to the sun than we are. From there, you can look back and see a "full Earth" all the time, and possibly track rocks with the sun behind you. The NEOCam mission is planned to sit on this spot; but it will actually look out at larger angles. This is a better long-range strategy -- it'll find a lot of bigger rocks that spend most of their time close to the sun -- but it does mean they wouldn't see a "last-minute" object.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Not very reassuring, is it

        Appreciation pint, also for your previous comment ----->

      2. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Not very reassuring, is it

        Chicxulub is rated at ~10+ km. Would you say we can be confident we know of _all_ similar extinction-level ones by now? Discounting extra-solar stuff like Oumuamua. What about ones “hiding” on really remote/eccentric/infrequent orbits that haven’t been close enough yet? Do they potentially exist? How would their risk ratio compare mathematically (if you only come by every x1000s of years, that puts you in a very different risk bracket than a 20 yr cycle).

        1. Bill Gray

          Re: Not very reassuring, is it

          I'd be reasonably, but not totally, confident that we've got the extinction-level ones. With 90% of the kilometer-sized ones found, the estimated risk from those is 10% of what it would have been circa 1995, when we started getting serious about surveying. (Actually lower than that; our estimate in 1995 of just how many one-km rocks exist in near-earth orbits turned out to be high.)

          We still have something to worry about for the smaller, city- or nation-obliterating objects. I should note that it's not a risk up there with climate change, nuclear war, or runaway pandemics. Nor is it being treated as such. The number of people working in this area is not huge. It gets (and, in my opinion, deserves) the level of attention you'd give to a low-probability, high-damage risk. Not to mention that there's considerable scientific value in studying these objects.

          For larger objects, the remaining risk is mostly from objects that have done a good job of hiding from our telescopes over the last twenty years : remote ("we could have had a good look at it in 1994, but it's got a 25-year orbital period") or infrequent ("much of its orbit is inside ours, where we gotta get pretty lucky to see it on one of the infrequent times it's near us.") We do find such objects every now and then. Not very often... which is why the risk from them isn't all that great.

          And you're right to discount `Oumuamua and similar interstellar objects. We've found a grand total of one. I suspect we may have missed others; we have an observational bias toward slower objects that are part of the solar system. But even allowing a large margin of error for that, interstellar objects are the least of our problems.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Not very reassuring, is it

            "..the estimated risk from those is 10% of what it would have been circa 1995, when we started getting serious about surveying... "

            Whereas the actual risk hasn't changed one iota.

            Do you mean the estimation of risk was ten times too high or that you think you've accounted for 90% of the risky rocks? Semantics matters in this context.

            1. Bill Gray

              Re: Not very reassuring, is it

              Yeah, I could have been clearer there.

              The actual risk is either zero or 100%. The rock hits us or it doesn't. Our _estimate_ of the risk depends on what we know at any given time. We've accounted for 90% of the one-kilometer rocks and know they won't hit us. In the course of that, we've gotten a more accurate idea of how many one-km rocks are in our neighborhood, and it's not as many as we'd expected when we started looking.

              Put those two together, and our estimate of the risk has dropped a little more than tenfold. The actual risk, as you suggest, is either zero or certainty. We won't really know until we wait and see what hits us (or, most likely, doesn't hit us).

              1. BuckeyeB

                Re: Not very reassuring, is it

                How do you know that you've accounted for 90%? Do you have a total number like 1000 and you know where 900 are? Or are you guessing that you've accounted for 90%?

                I've heard other weird statistics like this, such as 86% of Earth's species still unknown(https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110824-earths-species-8-7-million-biology-planet-animals-science/)

                The percentages given are both bogus unless you know the beginning total. I mean I understand you can guess based on how often you find a new one and extrapolate, but it's still a guess. Now if you said, you had discovered all of them but had lost track of 10% of them, then I'd believe your 90% and then ask how you lost track of them. But as far as we know, unless it's the case that you've lost them rather than guessing, you might as well say 99.9%

                1. Kiwi Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Not very reassuring, is it

                  I've heard other weird statistics like this, such as 86% of Earth's species still unknown(https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110824-earths-species-8-7-million-biology-planet-animals-science/)

                  I've heard many of these. Some I can understand how the numbers are made, others.. Like "95% of crime is unreported" - well unless someone reports a crime to someone who counts[1], how can you know a crime was committed? Isn't it more likely that no crime occurred? Unless you're looking for thought crimes, but again how do you know? It's like that "men think of sex every 5 seconds" or whatever it was that was reported and seemingly widely accepted without any hint of any proof [citation provided]

                  [1] You know, like a statistician or someone... -->

                2. sofaspud

                  Re: Not very reassuring, is it

                  It's not bogus, it's just math.

                  I'm not a mathematician (or statistician) but my job does involve a large amount of working with statistics. In a layman's-terms nutshell:

                  Say you have a big bag of things -- marbles or whatever. Doesn't matter what they are, what matters is that each one is individual -- unique -- and your job is to record them. You don't know how many are in the bag to start with, and because your boss is a jerk, you're only allowed to reach into the bag, grab one at random, record it, and put it back afterwards, and then start the process over again.

                  So you've been at this for a while, and at first every one you grabbed was new. Then over time, you started seeing ones that you'd already recorded. Eventually, you reach a point where nine out of ten times you reach into the bag, you're finding one you've already seen.

                  At that point you're pretty safe to say that you've seen 90% of the marbles in that bag, and you can even make a decent estimate about how many there are, even though you haven't counted them all yet.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Not very reassuring, is it

      It's only a problem if you don't live every day like it's your last. Have no regrets, do what you can to lead a good happy life. Then when the day comes if the asteroid hits or you don't see the bus coming, at least you can say "I didn't waste my time".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not very reassuring, is it

        at least you can say "I didn't waste my time".

        Why worry?

        When it happens you don't have that much time.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Not very reassuring, is it

        It's only a problem if you don't live every day like it's your last. Have no regrets, do what you can to lead a good happy life. Then when the day comes if the asteroid hits or you don't see the bus coming, at least you can say "I didn't waste my time".

        I don't live any day as if it was my last, but I don't waste my time much (what you might consider a waste of time I might not :) ), and I try not to leave things unsaid - I learnt that one the hard way[1].

        If I thought today would be my last, I'd be stuck. Who do I talk to? Who do I make a point of apologising to, and who can I ignore? Who do I embrace, and who do I avoid because they'd be a waste of precious moments? But would they be a waste of moments - I'd be doing the right thing even if they don't graciously accept it. But then that's time I could be spending with someone more deserving. I'd be paralysed and inactive. So I try to do the best I can with what I have.

        I came across this quote just now on the Wellington RATS facebook group (Riders Against Teen Suicide - might have to give thought to joining), "My nephew Joked "you only live once" I replied that I use to say that. Fact is we only DIE once, we live every day." One of the better ones I've seen and he's quite right, we die once.

        I'm blessed with amazing people in my life, some quite famous. I've also been able to do interesting things and had my own fame (I didn't like it). Much of that comes from being willing to say "why not" instead of saying why I can't.

        I think "This might be my last day" would've given me plenty of reasons not to do things, and I'd have been cooped up scared of my own shadow instead of saying "stuff my limitations" and getting out and doing stuff. It wasn't the chronic pain that let me climb mountains, but no one would've blamed me if I said 'this hurts too much guys, I'll stay home". It hurt, but the view and accomplishment are worth it. If I thought it was going to be my last day, I'd have spent it in bed hopefully with someone I love rather than knocking off another mountain.

        Protect your health, but not at the cost of destroying your life.

        [1]My last words to my mother weren't the things she should've heard. I've made some big mistakes in my life, but that's the one I'd most want to change.

    3. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Not very reassuring, is it

      "Well, so much for our capacity to detect them in time."

      I agree. In fact, I'm at the point of saying the best idea now might be to turn the problem over to the chaps over at The Grand Tour.

      No, I can't imagine what a car-based solution to the early detection of asteroids might look like either, nor how an earth-asteroid collision could be mitigated by anything Team Moron could come up with, but watching them try would at least take everyone's mind off the fact that we are still a galactic black waiting for the cue ball of death to send us into the top right corner bag for seven points.

      Thank you so-called "scientists" for wasting time renaming Pluto instead of doing useful space science with a point.

  6. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Angel

    And by the grace of God, Detroit was spared.....

    Yeah...um...uhhhhh...thanks God.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And by the grace of God, Detroit was spared.....

      You're welcome, child.

      1. Reg Reader 1

        Re: And by the grace of God, Detroit was spared.....

        Holy shit...you are real

  7. IceC0ld Silver badge

    The New Nightmare

    the Nork's, [enter your nuke owning terror of choice here ] 'test' fire a missile, and an unseen meteorite slams into ConUSA

    WWIII is a go :o(

  8. Ken Mitchell

    A Miss Is As Good As A Mile

    Or in this case, 200K miles. That's not especially close, even in cosmic terms. You want to talk about a NEAR miss? A billion-ton comet may have missed the Earth b a few HUNDRED miles in 1883.

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/425780/billion-ton-comet-may-have-missed-earth-by-a-few-hundred-kilometers-in-1883/

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: A Miss Is As Good As A Mile

      I prefer asteroids of any size to pass outside the orbit of the Moon, thank you.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: A Miss Is As Good As A Mile

      " A billion-ton comet may have missed the Earth by a few HUNDRED miles in 1883."

      There's a hypothesis that North America was subjected to a similar stream of airbursting fragments at the end of the last glaciation period - and that it triggered the Younger Dryas period - see craterhunter.wordpress.com

      The recent crater discoveries in Greenland lend more credence to the idea.

      Note the simulations of temperatures on the ground under airbursts and why one is a bad thing (Tunguska/Cheylabinsk), whilst a series of them potentially makes for an extremely bad day thanks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Miss Is As Good As A Mile

      50K miles according to the article - depending on relative velocities that could be ~45 minutes.

  9. Thoguht Silver badge

    Cold comfort maybe if it did hit somewhere densely populated, but bear in mind that less than 1% of the Earth's surface is urbanised.

    1. BuckeyeB

      "We just have to slow it up enough for the Earth to rotate a bit for the U.S. to move out of the way. Once again, Canada gets a free ride." :)

      Sorry, I couldn't help it. This is a quote from a comedian named Emo Phillips.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So it's not about spotting it in the first place.

    It's about spotting it long enough to get orbital parameters.

    Then updating them to walk its path through time

    To see if it comes close to Earth.

    And (unfortunately) there are a lot of objects that size.

    BTW IIRC 20km/s is faster than the fastest probe humans have ever launched from Earth.

  11. Winkypop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Specials when lit

    Galactic pinball.

  12. dank_army

    So you're telling me with all the vast resources available to monitor potential EOL scenarios that this wasn't picked up and reported? What really happened is that they just couldn't be bothered because they predicted it's path and knew it wouldn't hit - it's only news out of courtesy.

    Anyway, I doubt Jo public would be informed if there was an EOL object on a crash course - we don't have the technology to prevent or mitigate.

    1. Bill Gray

      See my previous post.

      We don't often see something this big, this close. (You could just about observe this with good binoculars. It's been a few years since that happened.) The object was picked up by an essentially amateur survey in Brazil, and then we got lucky that observers who usually aren't looking for rocks noticed a fast-moving object in their images. (_And_ that they observe from two separate observatories in Texas and Hawaii. They probably do that so they can confirm variations in star brightness aren't just some local issue, but in this case, it meant we got some parallax.)

      Data on incoming objects, including this one, are publicly available and discussed. We've had one hit us (2008 TC3) where we had enough data to puzzle out where it was going, and tracked it right down to where it hit in northern Sudan. (It was only a couple of meters across, so no danger... though you'd have seen one heck of a meteor if you'd been there.) Because it was so small, we had about 17 hours of warning on it. Generally speaking, you'd get more warning with bigger, brighter objects, but not always (didn't happen this time, for example; we really got somewhat lucky with TC3.)

      True, we can't prevent/mitigate an object hitting the next day. Had we been able to predict Chelyabinsk, though, we could have said : "An object will hit at exactly this place at exactly this time. Leave your windows cracked open. Don't stand near things that might fall on you." For a larger object (assuming correspondingly larger lead time) : "You might want to be somewhere else that day." Or -- for the 75% case of water impacts -- "Don't go to the beach today."

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        You could also say "don't start WWIII".

        1. Bill Gray

          A good point. The US, at least, has decent detection systems for such things. Nuclear explosions have a distinctive "double flash" : you see the explosion, it's briefly shrouded in debris, then you get a lot of light over a longer time. From the viewpoint of satellites, rocks hitting us don't look much like nuclear explosions; the US, at least, is unlikely to launch due to this particular sort of accident (no comment on what other mistakes might cause a launch).

          However, I've no idea what the rest of the world has for such systems, and could imagine a rock hitting over Pakistan, India, Israel, etc. leading to a "whoops" moment.

          1. mr_souter_Working

            Question

            "Nuclear explosions have a distinctive "double flash" : you see the explosion, it's briefly shrouded in debris, then you get a lot of light over a longer time. From the viewpoint of satellites, rocks hitting us don't look much like nuclear explosions"

            OK, most of the rocks that hit the earth are just rock - but we keep hearing about asteroid mining, and that there are trillions of tons of precious metals out there. what are the odds that some of them contain Uranium/Plutonium? what would happen if a 1km lump of uranium hit the earth at that speed - would it continue to be merely an asteroid impact, or could that potentially become an atomic bomb?

            and how about a 1km lump of rock that turned out to be made of something super dense - like osmium. even if it was a relatively small percentage of the rock, I have to think that it would be likely to change the potential destructive energy.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: Question

              what are the odds that some of them contain Uranium/Plutonium? what would happen if a 1km lump of uranium hit the earth at that speed - would it continue to be merely an asteroid impact, or could that potentially become an atomic bomb?

              I don't think it could - although there's potential for the velocity. From what I recall nukes require "enriched" materials to work, just digging some out of the ground and using it wouldn't work (although it has been known for natural reactors to have occurred, and run for some time if Wikipedia is to be believed (there's that bacon delivery drone again!)).

              Now, if it was to fluke and hit a waste storage area or a power station.. Pretty sure those things cannot go 'bang' in a big way - but when you add the energies of an asteroid impact, I'm not sure they'd not react a tad more energetically.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Question

              " what are the odds that some of them contain Uranium/Plutonium?"

              Fairly high - BUT it's dispersed - and more importantly, the stuff that's orbiting in our solar system has aged at the same rate as the stuff that's in our soil so you can expect similar concentrations.

              The last time uranium had enough U235 in it for a natural nuclear process to operate on this planet was a couple of billion years ago and even then it took water erosion to concentrate the material.

  13. Scott Broukell

    Well let's just hope that timing of such events is nothing like that of your typical London omnibus(ess) !

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Maybe they come in threes?

      1. Benson's Cycle

        As a retired admiral wrote to The Times "I do not understand is criticism of London buses. Since they adopted the convoy system not a single one has been sunk."

      2. KarMann
        Alien

        No, that's the Ramans that do that.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Maybe they come in threes?"

        Convoys - once a comet, etc starts fragmenting or asteroid breaks up in a collision, the pieces all fly along the same orbit.

        You can see that overnight at the moment as the Plieades Delta meteors

        https://www.space.com/32868-perseid-meteor-shower-guide.html

    2. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

      What, predicted and prepared for but never turning up so you get the Tube instead? :)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not the ones that miss I'm bothered about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, you can tell that from your posts.

      If you were more bothered you wouldn't miss the point..

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I assume SONEAR is pronounced "so near" and ASAS-SN as "assassin"

  16. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Trollface

    "If it had hit Columbus, Ohio, then there would be Columbus, Ohio, no more.

    How about Washington DC then?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: "If it had hit Columbus, Ohio, then there would be Columbus, Ohio, no more.

      Isn't Washington DC where Trump lives? When he's not away playing golf.

      Clouds....linings....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice to know that those tasked with looking out for us have it all under control.

  18. AceRimmer1980
    Alien

    The bugs sent another rock from Klendathu today

    and planetary defences are..erm..phew that was a close one.

    Would you like to know more?

    1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: The bugs sent another rock from Klendathu today

      Well I'm from Buenos Aires and I say kill 'em all!

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: The bugs sent another rock from Klendathu today

        We get you SIR!

  19. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Um. Bruce Willis is still on stand by... Right ?

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Yes, unless it's Christmas time and then you can find him at the Nakatomi Plaza

  20. VikiAi Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Dang!

    Missed again!

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Dang!

      Apophis, you naughty boy!

  21. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    A planet-wide grid of frickin lasers would illuminate these pesky blighters, they could also destroy Musks' asteroid obscuring satellite muses

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Facepalm

      A planet-wide grid of frickin lasers would illuminate these pesky blighters, they could also destroy Musks' asteroid obscuring satellite muses

      While helping to rid the sky of these things designed to soon burn up and destroy precious resources as they do, I fear that the lasers themselves would be so vast in size and numbers that we'd wind up with much the same problem - too many bright sparks in the sky launched by too many dim wits on earth :(

      Still, at least we could get some decent laser shows! :)

      --> Silly twit looked at the pointy end.... (El Reg, could we get an icon that's a hand around a clutch of straws???)

  22. Pete Maclean

    Correction: The SONEAR observatory is in Oliveira (not Oliveria), Brazil.

  23. sitta_europea Bronze badge

    Let's try to put this into some sort of perspective.

    For billions of years it's been Out There, taking its careful aim at us.

    It's going 88,500 km per hour, and it missed us by 72,000 km [*].

    So it missed us by just under 49 minutes.

    Speaking astronomically, that was definitely a bit too close for comfort.

    [*]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_OK

  24. fugue137

    Response?

    How would we respond? It's not even whom Trump would blame that worries me: does any nuclear-capable country have a response system (perhaps including human factors, perhaps not) that would treat this as a first strike worthy of retaliation? I'm guessing nobody can answer that, since the workings of response systems are seldom open-source...

    1. F111F
      Mushroom

      Re: Response?

      The US and Russia both have systems that allow them to differentiate between nuclear and non-nuclear explosions. I can only hope the Chinese and other nuke-owning nations either have a system, or check in before retaliatory lobbing commences. The US has satellites in orbit to track explosions (they can even trace missile plumes from air to air missiles and SAMs), and receiving stations are manned 24/7. In addition there are radiation tracking devices on aircraft to determine exactly what type of fissile material was used. The first thing would be the lack of a missile plume or radar track of any launch. Along with missing that, and observation of the explosion would determine a non-nuclear event, and hence something not requiring an immediate nuclear retaliatory strike. Can't say that armed forces wouldn't go up a level or two of readiness as a precaution from a possible terroristic event, and/or to mobilize for disaster support as a result, though.

      Icon: Because we are talking about nukes here...

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Response?

        Along with missing that, and observation of the explosion would determine a non-nuclear event, and hence something not requiring an immediate nuclear retaliatory strike.

        You may be forgetting a certain somewhat paranoid orangeutan.

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Response?

      I'm guessing nobody can answer that, since the workings of response systems are seldom open-source...

      I'll take the guess work out of it... Humans are like ultra-horny bunnies. When we're involved, something's getting fucked. And when we're in an extra-excited state (as many military-types will be in a potential 'first strike' scenario, well, all thought is going out the window.

  25. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Radio telescope feed from object as it passed: "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

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