View Full Version : Asteroid 2012 DA14

Noah Zark.
31st Jan 2013, 16:51
My Fellow Prooners, I seek the benefit of your usual immense collective knowledge. According to those who know about such things, the eponymous asteroid is going to wazz past Earth on February 15th., not very far away, and posing no danger to us. (THIS time!)
What interests me, and what I am asking, is, if (when) such an event occurs again, and the rock is liable to collide with us, are we able to do anything about it other than the well-proven tinfoil hat? i.e. whack it with a missile/rocket? or shouting at it? or w.h.y.?
Over to you guys.

31st Jan 2013, 16:57
Deflecting the trajectory, as far away as possible from Earth, of any threatening lump of
rock appears to be the best answer. Trying to blow it up would only make matters worse.

31st Jan 2013, 17:06
Perhaps it might be worth considering (by World governments) of the transporting missiles into earth orbit for this very purpose before any real threat arrives ? At least it would save time if an unexpected celestial visitor should get too close. This option would probably end up being hijacked by The People's Liberation Front of Wherever and turned back onto Earth and we'd be in the same mess as if said asteroid had hit.


tony draper
31st Jan 2013, 17:15
Well if you blow them into a million pieces we get clobbered by a shotgun blast rather than a single round,the bits will still follow their inevitable celestial mechanic trajectory so instead of just hopefully removing the sandy place from Earth we will all get dinosaured.

31st Jan 2013, 17:17
Perhaps it might be worth considering (by World governments) of the transporting missiles into earth orbit for this very purpose before any real threat arrives ?

MIT studied this back in the 60s or 70s, and their plan required multiple Saturn Vs to launch large enough nukes to divert a medium-sized asteroid. So right now we're probably screwed.

There are also a lot of legal and political issues to consider. What if your calculations are wrong, so you divert it away from London, but instead of missing the planet altogether, it's now going to land in Moscow?

SMT Member
31st Jan 2013, 17:55
On the topic of blasting vs deflecting, I appreciate blowing a huge rock into several less huge, but still quite big, pieces might not yield the desired result.

But what if you blow it into sufficiently small bits they'll either burn up completely on entry, or the bits that does make it through won't be big enough to do much more than snuff a small village (say a 10kt blast equivalent). Wouldn't that be "good enough"? Pretty shitty if you happen to live in the path of one of those that slips through, I know, but surely better than having Dino moment Mk.II?

31st Jan 2013, 18:07
SMT, you've got the right idea, IMO. Small bits of rock tumble through our atmosphere frequently. Called meteors. :D We even get meteor showers now and again.

Blow the 'roid into chunks small enough, and then enjoy the show as yet another meteor shower appears in the night sky.

31st Jan 2013, 18:08
What may work is get a team of Oil Rig Workers, send them up on two Space Shuttles, dig a hole, plant a nuke, blow it up, world saved.

Oh, one of the Oil Workers needs to have a luscious daughter as well.

31st Jan 2013, 18:20
11Fan wrote:

Oh, one of the Oil Workers needs to have a luscious daughter as well.

Animal. Pervert. :ok::eek::E:eek:

31st Jan 2013, 18:32
I think the inevitable asteroid hit on earth, will arrive with very little warning.

Whoever is around at the time, wont know too much about it.

bugg smasher
31st Jan 2013, 18:41
What, if by some serendipitous act of providence, said asteroid was composed entirely of platinum, or even unobtainium? Would we really want to blow it up?

Deflect into the moon I say, then the race is on to mine it.

tony draper
31st Jan 2013, 18:48
Most meteors that burn up in the upper atmosphere are not much bigger than a grain of sand, pea sized one's are called fireballs and leave trails of plasma behind em, take a hell of a bang to turn a ten billion ton rock into dust or pea sized lumps, besides wouldn't ten billion tons of dust burning up simultaneously in the atmosphere heat us up a bit beyond comfort?

31st Jan 2013, 18:52
Consider possibilities:

Asteroid left alone, hits earth, everyone annoyed.

Asteroid targetted by some yet-to-be-invented missile launched by USA, stays in one piece or fragments, but hits Russia. Or t'other way around. Russia (or the USA) very annoyed.

Seriously, considering effect of applying a very small force well ahead of *problems* what we should do is THIS TIME initiate action which will cause it to miss NEXT TIME. Such as spray-painting one side black as it goes by.

31st Jan 2013, 19:06
Everyone could be required to pray.

31st Jan 2013, 19:11
Pray? It's not god driving the asteroid.

31st Jan 2013, 19:16
It's not god driving the asteroid.So, did God only create the Earth (and all that therein is)?

What about the Moon?

Ronald Reagan
31st Jan 2013, 19:20
I think its best to try to change the direction of the asteroid when its a long way from Earth, if however one gets close and we don't find out until its to late for that then we could nuke it over and over again. Having a huge rock hit the planet could well be an extinction level event, a shot gun blast of city killers while VERY terrible would not be an extinction level event. Got to be better than allowing some huge rock to hit totally intact.

We should really be doing more in space. Space exploration should be our absolute priority ie missions to Mars, going back to the moon, setting up permanent bases on both. Its our future.

tony draper
31st Jan 2013, 19:31
There are just some acts of nature that we talking monkeys would just be helpless against,super volcano blowing its top,huge tsunami,earthquake,or another ice age,billions would die and sweet FA we could do about it.
As long as it holds off for another ten years or so it wont bother me.:rolleyes:

31st Jan 2013, 19:57
The next biggie is 2029 (Friday 13th) Tracking and identifiy large near Earth asteroids is pretty well detectable in the furture.

Friday the 13th, 2029 - NASA Science (http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/13may_2004mn4/)

31st Jan 2013, 20:00
We should really be doing more in space.

I sat in the Ops Control Room when GIOTTO flew thru Halley's Comet in March 1986 and was impressed by how much effect the dust particles had on the spacecraft. And this was dust, mark you, probably weighing just over 0.1 gram, and not a great chunk of rock. My own opinion is that if our planet looks likely to be hit by anything of a significant size the best thing we can do is put our heads between our legs and kiss one's a*se goodby.

Incidently I cannot resist adding: GIOTTO was the European spacecraft on that mission, one of a total of five from various countries. Guess which nation which usually is depicted saving the world from disaster on the movie screen was in reality unable to complete a spacecraft in time to join the mission ?

Ronald Reagan
31st Jan 2013, 21:23
Thats most interesting OFSO. I can see the Chinese being a hugely important part of space exploration in the coming years, the Russians are probably the most advanced space nation right now and continue to advance, but I can see China passing them sometime.
China and Russia to the rescue maybe!
It really seems the Americans and NASA are without direction.

31st Jan 2013, 23:10
It really seems the Americans and NASA are without direction.

Actually, we appear to be going the opposite direction. :ouch:

james ozzie
31st Jan 2013, 23:36
There seems to be an idea in the minds of the layman/press that because the thing came close this time, it will be closer next time. But I would think that the orbits are such that it may never come that close again? Or if it did, it might be in a thousand or a million orbits time?

What say ye, experts?

bugg smasher
1st Feb 2013, 00:46
Just when ya need him, where is Arthur C. Clarke?

twenty eight
1st Feb 2013, 02:37
Paint it white.

Loose rivets
1st Feb 2013, 03:26
Paintballs themselves could impart a slight momentum change to the asteroid, diverting it only slightly, but not enough to avoid Earth. The main effect would come from the paint's increase in reflectivity on the asteroid.

Thus, the pressure of photons coming from the sun, acting over enough time, could result in a large shift in course. Paek concluded that the course of asteroid Apophis, a 27-gigaton rock that is expected to pass close to Earth in 2029 and in 2036, could be changed enough to miss Earth. He estimated that 5 tons of paint would be sufficient to cover the 1,480-foot-diameter asteroid.

Anyone see a slight flaw in this idea?

1st Feb 2013, 04:23
Rather than deflecting the asteroid, how about deflecting the Earth by speeding it up a tad. A side effect of this will be putting us in a higher orbit from the sun, counter-acting the global warming effect.:cool:

1st Feb 2013, 04:39
There seems to be an idea in the minds of the layman/press that because the thing came close this time, it will be closer next time. But I would think that the orbits are such that it may never come that close again? Or if it did, it might be in a thousand or a million orbits time?

What say ye, experts?

The experts don't seem to know enough about the orbit of DA14 to predict the likelyhood of a future collision. Even if it does collide with earth, with a diameter of only 40 metres, it doesn't have sufficient mass to destroy the planet; but it could spoil your day.

You should be more concerned about the chances of a collision in 2040 with 2011 AG5. That has a diameter of 140 metres and if it does hit earth, the resulting bang should be in the region of 100 megatons TNT. The odds of an impact in 2040 have been calculated as 1 in 625, so no need to get too alarmed.

1st Feb 2013, 04:44
That's old info. Only 2007 VK184 has a non-zero Torino score at the moment.

1st Feb 2013, 05:42
What's that in layman's terms Bushfiva?

1st Feb 2013, 06:29
The Torino Scale runs from 0 to 10, and is a combined measure of the chance of something hitting the planet, and what the result will be.

So 0 covers objects that will never hit you, but also things that hit all the time but are too small to do any damage. 10 is something that is going to hit, and it will be civilization-altering.

Simplifying somewhat, things that are observed for the first time are rated at "1", which in practice means they're of interest until their orbit is determined. Most things enter the scale at 1 and are quickly downgraded to 0. One object entered at 1, initial research upgraded it to 4 (1% chance of regional devastation), then it was downgraded to 0 after longer observations. I can't remember the object's name, but I expect Wikipedia knows. The scale is only used to score things out to a century. Depending on threat level, international cooperation and response are suggested from a decade to a century ahead of an impact.

Torino Scale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torino_Scale)

1st Feb 2013, 06:48
I was about to respond to 11Fan's post but Bushfiva beat me to it. To my knowledge there's currently only one asteroid with a Torino Scale rating of 1 and all the other known ones are zero. And just a very minor and pedantic correction to Bushfiva's post - a scale of 0 doesn't actually mean zero chance, but an exceedingly small chance and that it really isn't worth considering.

To answer James post a little earlier, there's no one specific answer. Remember the NEOs orbit the sun, not the earth, and often not in the same plane as the Earth's orbit, so sometimes a particular asteroid comes close, then it orbits the sun several more times coming nowhere near the Earth, and then a few years down the line comes close again.

Another factor is that the orbits can never be measured to an accuracy of 100%, there's always an error associated with the orbit. More observations over time reduce the error significantly, but it never goes away completely. Now, apply that error to 50 years time and you can imagine things become a little more uncertain. That small error also means you can't tell with 100% accuracy how close an asteroid will pass to a planet and therefore cannot also predict with 100% accuracy how the path is affected.

Having said that, the accuracy is very high, but as you try and predict things many years ahead, of course it becomes a little less certain. That's why whenever you see these events in the news, you'll nearly always see them quote an astronomer as saying [asteroid X] has a 1 in 60,000 (or whatever) chance of impacting the Earth; this whole field is dealing with probabilities.

Incidentally, 2012 DA14 is a pretty small asteroid. If it were to impact the Earth in the future (which it almost certainly won't) and if it just happened to land in a populated area, it's a city-destroyer but not something that would have a global impact (well, unless it hit Wall Street).

BTW, I'm an astronomer but asteroids is not my field of expertise.

1st Feb 2013, 07:43
Just hold an auction and sell the rights to one of these two companies (http://news.yahoo.com/deep-space-industries-asteroid-mining-company-born-211242592.html).

Can't remember the exact numbers, but a single medium size asteroid contains more copper, iron and precious metals than the human race has ever dug out of the ground - and already out of the gravity well.

Asteroid Composition (http://www.planetaryresources.com/asteroids/composition/):


Once we are able to access, process, and utilize asteroid water resources, mining metals becomes more feasible. Some near-Earth asteroids contain platinum group metals in much higher concentrations than the richest Earth mines. In space, a single platinum-rich 500 meter wide asteroid contains about 174 times the yearly world output of platinum, and 1.5 times the known world-reserves of platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum). This amount is enough to fill a basketball court to four times the height of the rim. By contrast, all of the platinum group metals mined to date in history would not reach waist-high on that same basketball court.


Asteroids also contain more common metallic elements such as iron, nickel, and cobalt, sometimes in incredible quantities. In addition to water, other volatiles, such as nitrogen, CO, CO2, and methane, exist in quantities sufficient to warrant extraction and utilization.....

1st Feb 2013, 09:21
I wonder whether a series of surface detonated multi-megaton nuclear warheads would give a c.1km diameter rock a sufficient nudge to deflect it from its collision course, were they employed a timely manner (say a decade of so before the calculated impact date)? We've still got a fair stockpile of these sat in silos around the globe - presumably it wouldn't be a major technical challenge to get them to go straight up into space rather than up and down, and add ion thrusters for course corrections.

Its the ones we don't know about which are the real problem - it seems almost every year we have a near-miss with some uncatalogued asteroid.

1st Feb 2013, 09:23
Hokulea, you spend your working life sitting on top of a dormant (not extinct) volcano, and just a few miles from an active one. Asteroids are not your biggest problem. ;)

tony draper
1st Feb 2013, 10:01
Hmmm a Comet would be easier to deal with,couple of big mirrors directing the sunlight at it and it would vaporize.
I think the best solution to a incoming asteroid I've read on this thread was the kissing your arse goodbye one.

1st Feb 2013, 12:22
I popped into the DIY store this morning and as I suspected found there aren't any ladders long enough to get someone up to the asteroid and paint one side black as it sweeps by. So the answer is obvious: paint one side of the earth black (it is much easier to get to !), and get chaps to cover it up/expose it to manoeuvre us out of the way with heat from the sun. China might be a good place, plenty of desert, plenty of chaps with nothing to do. Just don't transport the workers in buses over high bridges.

1st Feb 2013, 12:39
You can shoot all the nukes you like at a pure iron asteroid and it won't make one tiny
shmick of bloody difference unless you aim to deflect it while its still far out from Earth.
The closer it gets the greater deflection required - and hence the greater total energy
required to deflect the bloody thing could exceed Earth's capability...leave it too far too
late and you'll have an ELE that wiped out Fred, Dino, Mr Slate and the rest of Bedrock.

Ones composed entirely of rock will split up with constant nuke-pounding, but of course
some shards will get through to wipe out either an entire country or your local chemist
shop depending on the size.

Rather than making a damn mess of the Solar System by launching things that blow up,
simply send a satellite-sized rocket engine lander to the asteroid concerned - land it at
the ideal point - and fire up the engine with sufficient thrust to steer the problem away
on a new safer trajectory.

But all suggested protective measures depend on the most important considerations of
any threatening asteroid - physical makeup, mass, and relative speed of closure (ie the

1st Feb 2013, 13:40
But all suggested protective measures depend on the most important considerations of any threatening asteroid

And on the availability of Bruce Willis......

1st Feb 2013, 14:22
Yes. Without Bruce we're all f**ked.

1st Feb 2013, 14:37
Not total wipe out of the human race slasher.........................

We find deep mines, take fertile young ladies, ten females for each man, food for five years and all other comforts to sustain the breeding program.................................

MEIN FUHRER............I CAN WALK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1st Feb 2013, 14:46
Noah Zark wrote worriedly concerning Asteroid 2012 DA14: a mere 45m or 148ft if you prefer.

The asteroid which basically wiped out all the dinosaurs 65m years ago measured apparently some 10km - 10,000m if you prefer. If Asteroid 2012 DA14 eventually ever hits the planet, depending on where exactly it falls might perhaps result in the loss of millions, if not 10s of millions of lives in today's heavily-populated cities / coastal cities and regions.

Apparently, we don't know about the whereabouts or the trajectories of 90% or greater of such small asteroids, simply because our research is still infantile. They could hit the planet tomorow without any warning...

Whatever, do you really believe that your own governments would warn you "in advance" of the approach of any importantly-sized asteroid impacts? Apart from ensuring their own-offspring protection in government-built bunkers in good time having been fore-warned before the general populations, the most important calculation would be to not engender any dangerous movements of panic amongst the most basic life-forms "the general populations" / human-beings / citizens etc. :(

1st Feb 2013, 15:32
And on the availability of Bruce Willis......

Nah, Bruce f3cked up big-time. Ben Affleck saved the day IIRC. Of course, the gun totin' half of America would never let Ben participate in such a mission given his politics and close association with George Clooney.

because our research is still infantile

Maybe the likes of NASA and ESA don't commit much resource to this because it is quite boring. Seriously, if you were a space scientist would you rather figure out how to get a man to Mars, detect gravity waves or look into the distant reaches of the universe, or tracking rocks floating around our neck of the solar system (even though in the grand scheme its probably far more important/worthy)?

1st Feb 2013, 20:46
If the planets line up correctly you could land a rocket booster on the thing and line it up so that it would be captured by one of the gas planets. Whether it goes into orbit as a micro moon or gets sucked into a collision would not much matter to us.

Likely the Sun has captured many asteroids, but we don't want to upset it with something too big to swallow:}

1st Feb 2013, 20:52
If the planets line up correctly

Yes, and if the trajectory and velocity match the Earth's, it could make a nice gentle landing at a few fps somewhere uninhabited like the Empty Quarter...but I wouldn't count on it happening.

Still, in a universe of infinite size, ANYTHING is possible.

Noah Zark.
2nd Feb 2013, 00:16
Noah Zark wrote worriedly

Did I really? :)

2nd Feb 2013, 04:22
Yeh you did Noah - it was obvious your hands
were shaking as you clunked yer keyboard. ;)

2nd Feb 2013, 06:59
Hokulea, you spend your working life sitting on top of a dormant (not extinct) volcano, and just a few miles from an active one. Asteroids are not your biggest problem.Well, in the old days, yes, but it's all done remotely now, so if Mauna Kea blows its top we'll be relatively safe although certainly out of a job. On the other hand, now we have to worry about an asteroid impacting the Pacific, but over the last three years the tsunami evacuation drill has certainly been exercised more often than normal...

Noah Zark.
2nd Feb 2013, 10:46
That was only the lingering after-effect of the thoughts from the previous thread I started! :\ :ok: