Saturday, February 16, 2013

16 February 2013 Danger Close Drop ‘em on my planet

As asteroid whizzes by, surprise meteor makes an impact over Russia

By Brian Vastag, Will Englund and Joel Achenbach, Published: February 15

“It was a day when the Earth was caught in a cosmic crossfire. The big rock came from the south, the smaller one from the east. They were unrelated objects, with different orbits, one the size of an apartment building, the other slimmer but with better aim.
The larger asteroid missed by 17,000 miles, as expected, but the Russian meteor stole the show Friday, fireballing across the Ural Mountains in spectacular fashion and exploding into fragments, creating a powerful shock wave that blew out windows, collapsed roofs and injured 1,200 people, mostly from broken glass…”
Cassi Creek: “ Definition: (DOD, NATO) In artillery and naval gunfire support, information in a call for fire to indicate that friendly forces are within 600 meters of the target.” 
An indication that the unit calling for support was in desperate straits.  They were willing to risk casualties from their own artillery or TAC Air in order to put the incoming rounds onto the enemy forces.  The extreme case was indicated by the call, “Danger Close – Drop on my smoke!”  This meant that the unit in trouble was marking their position with smoke grenades, indicating little or no separation between the two forces. 
            We’re not at quite that point with meteors and asteroids.  We can track them if we can find them.  The object that hit Russia yesterday was entirely undetected until it entered the atmosphere.  The angle of approach and the position of the sun relative to the telescopes tasked to detect such objects prevented prior notice. 
            Even if we develop and deploy better detection systems, the manner in which we will act to destroy or redirect incoming objects away from the planet’s orbit remains to be determined.  We have no single or combined agency capable of deflecting or destroying a large meteor or asteroid.  The cost of such projects will rival all satellite launch vehicles relative to heavy lift capacity.  There will need to be multiple backup launch vehicles available and multiple backup destruction/deflection payloads available and capable of being deployed at extremely short notice.  We have the capability to build and launch such vehicles but we don’t have the payload systems. 
The kinetic energy of such objects is unimaginable to most of us.  Even comparing them to nuclear and thermo-nuclear devices is a poor comparison.  The last two impacts in, or above, Russia produced damage over hundreds of square miles.  Compared to these events, the bombs detonated over Japan in WWII were miniscule. 
                        Further concern must be considered at a more local level.  Any launch vehicle capable of lifting an anti-asteroid system could easily be used to deploy a nuclear weapon against other nations.  This may prove to be an even more difficult problem to solve than the potential objects impacting from space.   
            Closer to home, the material falling is snow.  We have a light ice-layer under the snow on the decks and steps.  I’ve scraped them down about an hour ago and all the flat surfaces have at least another inch of snowfall now.  I’ve hauled in two loads of wood for tonight’s consumption.  Travel may be ill-advised today.  There is no winter storm forecast for our location.  However, there is a winter weather advisory in effect for the eastern side of our Appalachians.  The demarcation line is the state border with NC.  We are three miles west of that demarcation line.  We are supposed to have a 30% chance of snow today.  Totals later.  Possible film at 2300, but do not hold your breath.
            Last item this morning, Gloria got some good pictures of the turkeys feeding on the snow-covered back yard.

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