It’s been talked about and studied by astronomers and physicists for years. A number of Hollywood films have been made on the subject and the potential destruction that would happen should a mega-sized chunk of space rock, otherwise known as an asteroid, should ever collide with the earth. And theories are still coming out as to why the age of the dinosaurs appeared to have come to a sudden, almost abrupt end about 65 million years ago.
But whether you are a Bruce Willis fan, or just have an occasional uneasy feeling every time you see a “shooting star” or read an obscure article in either your favorite news site, or see something about it on TV, more and more attention is being drawn to the possibility that an asteroid of a size ranging from 300 meters across to as much as 6 miles across, may be right no on a collision path with planet earth. Much attention was given to this possibility after the movie “Armageddon ” came out in 1998 in which the US. Space agency NASA discovers that a massive asteroid the size of the state of Texas is due to strike earth in less than three weeks, destroying all life on our planet. This thriller movie, starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, followed an earlier movie called Deep Impact, starring Morgan Freeman – which ended on a much more somber note than Armageddon did, in which Willis manages to use his last bit of strength to set off a nuclear bomb that had been planted deep inside the asteroid, causing it to blow up and thus miss hitting the earth.
Coincidentally, some new articles came out about the same time as Armageddon that a much smaller asteroid, one about 1.4 miles in diameter (2.5 km) had been discovered way out in space, and it could possibly reach the earth in the year 2017. This caused a minor stir, possibly due to its being divulged at around the same time the Bruce Willis flick had hit the box offices. This must have prompted scientists to look into this possibility, as a couple of weeks later, another news story came out in which the US government agency assured everyone that the asteroid in question would not hit the earth after all.
Could this have been a cover-up by the government in order to get people not to be concerned? It’s often said that we humans (and other life forms) live on an “Island we cannot leave”. Another asteroid, which has been named Apophis, is now said to be possibly arriving here around 2029; and even though it is expected to pass us, could wind up in an elliptical orbit with the earth (due to the earth’s gravitational pull) and eventually strike our plant around 2036. Of course, this is still scientific speculation; but, some scientists are not disregarding this possibility. In fact, one well known American astronomer, Dan Geraci of the Pasadena based Planetary Society, was quoted as saying: “This asteroid, Apophis, isn’t science fiction; it isn’t a blockbuster Hollywood movie – it’s very real!”
Giant meteors and asteroids have struck in different parts of the world, including Russia, where an asteroid supposed crashed into a forested region in Siberia on the Tungusta River near the town of Kerensk in 1908. The asteroid literally exploded in midair, according to eyewitness accounts, but left no crater. Forest land at “ground zero” was devastated for a radius of up to ten kilometers, however. There is a large meteor crater in Arizona in the USA, and several in Africa. But many of these may actually be attributed to the effects of water and soil erosion, including a section of Israel’s Arava Valley, outside the city of Mitzpe Ramon. A number of large space rocks have also landed in various oceans or seas, and may have been responsible for some large tsunami tidal waves that may have been attributed to undersea earthquakes.
A few years following the Willis movie, in January 2005 to be exact, NASA created some new publicity when it launched a rocket from earth for the purpose of intercepting a comet in deep space, Temple 1. The mission proved to be successful when the rocket’s projectile did indeed strike the surface of the comet on July 5, 2005. Could this launching have been a “dress rehearsal” for a possible future launch to hit and destroy an asteroid such as Apophis? Though definitely not the “size of the State of Texas” it is still large enough (about 1.3 miles across) to cause considerable damage, wherever it might strike.
It’s definitely something to think about, and Washington (NASA in particular) is not saying much more about it. Like the saying goes – we all do live on an island we cannot leave.