Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Halloween Asteroid: 2015 TB145

(From Alex Alishevskikh,; via Flikr and, used w/o permission.)
("Trail of the object that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013."

Asteroid 2015 TB145 won't hit Earth, but it will be only slightly farther from us than the Moon at 1:05 p.m. EDT, 5:05 p.m. UTC, October 31. I've talked about asteroids, Earth Time, and why thinking ahead makes sense, before:
I think we'd have a pretty good chance of surviving a replay of whatever killed off the non-avian dinosaurs. We've been surviving Earth's current ice age, an unstable climate that drove quite a few other critters to extinction, for the last few million years.

As I've said before, we've learned how to cope. (July 11, 2014)

On the other hand, we might not: and we'd almost certainly suffer a great deal in the process. On the whole, I think avoiding that sort of disaster would be better than enduring it.

Fifty years ago, we probably wouldn't have noticed an incoming asteroid until very shortly before it hit. Even if we did, there wouldn't have been much we could do, apart from praying — and that's another topic. (January 5, 2014; May 3, 2013)

If we noticed an 'extinction event' hunk of rock heading our way fifty years from now, I think prayer would still be a good idea: but by then we could have an effective 'asteroid response plan' in place.

The most sensible approach would, I think, be pushing the things into an orbit that doesn't threaten Earth: and spotting them early enough to do something about the knowledge. I've been over this before. (January 16, 2015; February 21, 2014)

Having tech ready to move asteroids or comets is only part of the picture. Spotting incoming hazards early enough to deal with them is important, too. We spotted TB145 three weeks before its closest approach, which probably wouldn't be enough.

More than you need, and probably want, to know about asteroid readiness:
Again, I think prayer would be a good idea. But I also think we should make common-sense preparations for unpleasant events.

Trusting God is a good idea: so is using our brains. One of our responsibilities is taking care of this world, for ourselves and for future generations. If we're going to do that, we need to study natural processes: so science is a good idea. So is technology. The trick is using them wisely. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 301, 304, 373, 2086, 2292-2296, 2415, 2456)

I've said this before, often: I'm a Catholic, so I must believe that God created and is creating a good and ordered universe. We're made in the image of God, rational creatures — and stewards of the physical world. (Genesis 1:27-28, Psalms 19:2; Wisdom 7:17; Catechism, 1, 341, 373, 1730, 2375)

Getting back to asteroid TB145, scientists will be keeping an eye on it at several optical observatories. The Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California's radar system will be tracking the quarter-mile-wide rock, too. More about this asteroid:

I'll be back tomorrow morning: with what I think about Kerberos, a moon of Pluto; and what may be running water on Mars.

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