When Asteroids Collide

One of the most likely ‘Earth Apocalypse’ scenarios among the many bandied about by 2012 alarmists is that a “Near Earth Object” — as asteroids, meteors and other space junk that might collide with us are known in the trade — might smash through our atmosphere and impact with our planet. The Hubble Telescope has recorded a taste of what that might mean, reported in the Register:

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the aftermath of just what happens when two asteroids collide at 11,000 mph (17,702 km/h), prompting an explosion “as powerful as the detonation of a small atomic bomb”.

P/2010 A2. Photo: NASA

P/2010 A2. Photo: NASA

The result is a “peculiar” object – dubbed P/2010 A2 – which boasts a comet-like debris trail behind a mysterious X-shaped formation.

The asteroid belt pile-up happened in early 2009, according to NASA, but it wasn’t until January this year that the Lincoln Near-Earth Research (LINEAR) Program Sky Survey spotted the tail.

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observations indicate a surviving 400-foot-wide (122m-wide) object, which was hit by a smaller body, “perhaps 10 to 15 feet wide” (3 to 4m). The latter was vapourised in the blast, and its remains and material thrown off from the former were swept into a tail by solar radiation.

Astronomers are keen to find out just how much dust such high-speed encounters eject into interplanetary space, and while they reckon that “modest-sized asteroids smash into each other about once a year”, they’re difficult to spot…

[continues in the Register]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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