Duck! There’s another near-Earth asteroid coming!
You may have noted the media reports this week about the asteroid 2007 TU24, which makes a close pass by our home planet next Tuesday (January 29). But don’t worry too much, because I mean “close” in astronomical terms, which in this case is 1.4 lunar distances (334,000 miles).
Or perhaps a friend of yours forwarded a goofball hoax e-mail to you about the government conspiracy (only one?) to hide the fact that OH! MY! GOD! THE ASTEROID IS HEADING RIGHT FOR US!!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! ARRRGGGGHHHH!
Here’s a snippet from the goofball hoax e-mail a friend of mine forwarded to me:“My friend, who I cannot identify, because of security issues told me that NASA is about 50/50 as to whether this asteroid will impact Earth.”
My favorite part is at the end, where this unidentified friend-of-NASA-contract-worker says, “If you are a praying man or woman I suggest to you that your prayers are directed toward the protection of Earth from this object. If you are not a praying person I suggest to you that you become one. May the Great Spirit protect us all!”
Forget the Great Spirit. What about NASA?
This is just one of the questions examined in a science video by Space Viz Productions, “Planetary Defense.” The 48-minute video — available on DVD from Amazon.com and the Space Viz web site — was directed, produced, narrated, edited, and scored by M. Moidel.
The video discusses the threat from asteroid and comet strikes, what scientists are doing to better characterize the threat, and what we humans might do to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs if a big asteroid were to threaten us.
I won’t comment much on the “hey, kids, let’s put on a show” lack of technical savvy in this video. You either see the glass half full or half empty. The half-empty perspective might include comments on the poor quality of video and sound in some parts of the video, or the distracting and intrusive music running behind some of the key interview segments.
But the half-full perspective says, “Wow, he did this ALL himself!” As someone now learning how to produce video, I feel Moidel’s pain. Making videos is HARD, and there are a million ways to look silly. (I invite Moidel to view some of my early videos for Astronomy.com and have a good giggle.)
That all said, the video does a good job with the content. It’s basically an educational film, not “infotainment” of the type you would expect on the Discovery Channel. Much to his credit, Moidel digs deep into some of the critical technical issues regarding space defense, such as the different mitigation strategies required to defend Earth against dense, metallic asteroids versus “junkpile” collections of rubble held together by gravity. The DVD also includes extended slide shows about comets & asteroids and Earth impacts. The total content length is 1 hour.
Kudos also to Moidel for the impressive and authoritative lineup of experts he interviewed, including science-fiction pioneer Arthur C. Clark, famous comet-hunter David Levy, and a number of NASA top brains, including asteroid-scientist Donald Yeomans and astrobiology guru David Morrison.
As for Rusty Schweickart, the former astronaut now tooting the trumpet for space defense internationally, perhaps using heavily pixilated and discolored web-cam footage of him in the video was not such a good idea. I kept staring at the holes winking in and out of Rusty’s forehead instead of listening to him.
Anyway, if you want a slick documentary on space defense, avoid this video. However, if you want a detailed and informative treatment of the space defense issue, watch “Planetary Defense” — but be prepared to pay $49.99. This price is comparable, or lower than, many educational video products on the market. Moidel’s video seems best for schools and libraries rather than general consumers of science media.
Will it hit here at the trailer park?
I have a simple question. Why isn't there any "news" coverage of an Earth approaching asteroid in Astronomy's news section on the web-site? Having it in the BLOG's is fine, but shouldn't a magazine dedicated to amature astronomy say something about these wayward rocks, even if they pose no danger it would be an interesting challange to "see" one as it passes us.
Thanks Daniel for the time you spent putting your blog together. I had first heard about the absurd 'hype' about this Asteroid on Coast To Coast AM with George Noory. He had a guess who took advantage of reaching approximately 6 million listeners with the (news) that the asteroid was diverted by the Earth and Moon's gravity. He said that the "undisclosed source" told him the altered course gave a 50/50 chance of hitting us. I thought "What a way to get on the radio! All you have to do is to take an unauthenticated hypotheses given by an undisclosed source, and prostituting yourself for the money and notoriety. I feel that folks on Astronomy. com, like yourself, are simply not gullable to most of the "junk blogs" that are out there! However, there's always the possibility that amateur astronomers can't debunk these "notoriety blogs" because of a lack of certainty that even NASA admits to having at times. It doen't hurt to pray.
Mick Homer aka Astro2012
Canyon Lake, Texas
Thanks for that note, Mick ( Astro2012). Sounds like George Noory just read the hoax email and represented it as an "undisclosed source.' That's a pretty shameful excuse for journalism. How sad the listeners seem to be more hip to journalistic ethics than some of the "journalists."