Is This Asteroid The Culprit for Meteors Crashing To Earth?


by Mitch Battros (ECTV)

As reported by my colleague David Whitehouse of BBC, an asteroid discovered just a month ago is making a close approach to the Earth. The name of this NEA (near earth asteroid) is '2001 YB5'. Although there is no danger of collision with it, astronomers say that its proximity reminds us just how many objects there are in space that could strike our planet with devastating consequences.

Moving closer to the Sun, the asteroid is passing by at less than three times the Moon's distance from us - just 830,000 kilometers (510,000 miles) away on 7 January, which is close in cosmic terms. It is thought to be 300 meters in size - large enough to wipe out an entire country if it struck the Earth.

2001 YB5 was discovered in early December by the Neat (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) survey telescope observing from Mount Palomar in California, US. Astronomers call it an Apollo object because it has a highly elliptical orbit that crosses the orbits of Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury. It circles the Sun every 1,321 days.

Astronomers also add that it is "potentially hazardous", meaning there is a slim chance that it may strike the Earth sometime in the future. Such a "close encounter" is rare but not unprecedented. However, the only other known object that will come closer to the Earth is an asteroid called 1999 AN10, which will pass a shade closer on 7 August, 2027.

Could the events we have seen in India and New Orleans be a "chip off the old block"?

2001 YB5's brightness suggests it is a rocky body about 300 meters across. If it struck the Earth a 300-meter object would not be a global killer: to wipe all life off the face of our planet an object would have to be about 1 km in size. But 300 meters is more than enough to cause widespread devastation.

If it struck land, it would wipe out an entire country. If the impact point were London, then scientists estimate there would be total devastation for 150 km and severe destruction for a further 800 km, meaning that not only would the UK be destroyed but France and the Low Countries as well. If it struck the ocean, the destruction would be more widespread. It would trigger tsunamis that would devastate most coastal cities.

According to experts, the recent discovery and close approach of 2001 YB5 suggests that something nasty could creep up on us at any time. Dr Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University, UK, told BBC News Online: "The fact that this object was discovered less than a month ago leads to the question of if we would have had enough time to do anything about it had it been on a collision course with us.

"Of course the answer is no; there is nothing we could have done about it. It is a reminder of the objects that are out there. It is a reminder of what is going to happen unless we track them more efficiently than we do and make better preparations to defend our planet," says Dr Peiser.

Stunning Update to India's Meteor Blast

Bhubaneswar, India - The search for the remnants of the huge meteorite which sped across the sky in the coastal Orissa last night continued today amid reports of villagers in Kendrapara district stumbling upon two strange objects this morning. While the object at Benakand a village was blown to smithereens, the one at Paschima suniti weighing 5.7 kg was intact. The "ball of fire", described by scientists as a meteorite, streaked across the sky from west to east before landing on a thatched house at about 6.30 p.m. yesterday and was witnessed by the people in at least 11 districts in the coastal belt.

One dies... One of the 11 persons admitted to hospitals in Kendrapara, Jajpur and Mayurbhanj districts after witnessing the spectacle died in the SCB Medical College Hospital at Cuttack today. Sukadeb Singh age 75, who along with two others, had been shifted from Kendrapara hospital to Cuttack, died this morning. Five persons, including three from one family, were admitted to hospitals in three different places of Jajpur district while three others were hospitalized at Kaptipada in Mayurbhanj district.

The three persons, who fell unconscious after the incident, were recovering in the Kaptipada Hospital. A 75-year-old man, Harekrushna Behera, complained that he had lost his vision after seeing the fire. In Kolkata, M.P. Brila Planetarium clarified that the small streak of luminous yellow light which turned to orange and finally brilliant blue before disappearing from the sky was a typical meteorite, though it came a wee bit closer to the earth than the normal ones. It was a normal cosmic phenomenon and had nothing to do with the tidal ebb.