SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is very worried about the future of the Earth and is warning that the planet has absolutely “no defense” against a giant asteroid which could well hit the us one day, taking to Twitter and posting this ominous message:
Great name! Wouldn’t worry about this particular one, but a big rock will hit Earth eventually & we currently have no defense. https://t.co/XhY8uoNNax
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 18, 2019
The asteroid referenced in Musk’s tweet is one known as Apophis, which is named after an Egyptian god of death. It’s scheduled to pass by Earth on April 13, 2029. Apophis is 1,100 miles wide and would certainly be devastating if it collided with the planet.
But Apophis isn’t the threat is sounds like, CNN notes:
Musk isn’t wrong when he tweeted ‘Wouldn’t worry about this particular one,’ though. Apophis is going to miss us by 19,000 miles. It’s rare that such a large object will be this close, so NASA scientists will take the opportunity to observe surface details and other things that may help with planetary defense.
So what are we supposed to do? Worry or not?
For the answer, the best place to turn is NASA. Lindley Johnson, of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, told CNN:
“While no known asteroid larger than 140 meters in size has a significant chance of hitting Earth for the next 100 years, NASA and its partners are studying several different methodologies for deflecting a hazardous asteroid.”
Hmm…so there’s no need to worry, but NASA is looking at ways to protect against such an event. Sounds like good advice, just to be on the safe side.
And while Apophis doesn’t seem to be a threat, there are other possibilities that are certainly worth taking a closer look at.
The Express had this to say about Didymos 65803, a binary asteroid the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza:
“Didymos 65803 … has been classified as a potential hazard by NASA – meaning it could crash into Earth in the future. The 775-metre space rock is orbited by a smaller 160-metre-wide moon and has the potential to wipe out a city, according to calculations.”
Thankfully, scientists in the U.S. and Europe are working on a way to deflect Didymos if it does indeed wind up on a collision course with the planet we call home:
“In November, European space ministers are set to back the HERA project – humanity’s first mission to orbit the double asteroid and dispatch two smaller drones – named CubeSats – in an attempt to figure out how to deflect it.
“Astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Brian May revealed the plans during a promotional video on their YouTube last month.”
Yes, THAT Brian May. He just so happens to have a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and he explained how he and other astronomers are at work on saving the Earth:
“HERA is led by a multinational team of scientists and engineers, humanity’s ‘makers and doers’.
“Right now, all we have is many years of research and theories, but HERA will revolutionise our understanding of asteroids and how to protect ourselves from them.
“First, NASA will slam its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid at more than six kilometres a second.”
Then what? That’s when science and numbers come to the rescue:
“HERA will map the impact crater left by DART and measure the asteroid’s mass.
“Knowing this mass is key to determining what’s inside and knowing for certain whether we would be able to deflect it.”
The bottom line is that capable people are watching the skies and have plans to prevent a catastrophic asteroid strike. So while Elon Musk may say we have no defense, that’s not exactly true. Then again, no one can predict if the plans in place to defend us will actually work since they’ve never been used.
Looking at the entire subject of asteroids hitting earth from an existential point of view, you come to this conclusion: If it’s meant to happen, it will. That may sound fatalistic, but it also happens to be undeniable.
Here’s a simulation showing the damage that would be done if an asteroid hit the Earth:
Featured Image Via Pixabay