An astronomer recently said that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery. Recent events have certainly given credence to that statement. The massive meteor that seared across the Russian Urals early this morning and the missing us by a whisker (in astronomical terms) of an asteroid brought it all home.
What I found so interesting was the seeming nonchalance of the many Russian drivers who recorded the fly-over of the meteor. In Russia, I gather, many vehicles have dash and rear mounted cameras to prove who was at fault in an accident and also to try to keep the police from attempting extortion or intimidation on motorists. (That could be a whole other blog, now that I think about it.) However, those dash cams caught this fireball arcing across the early morning sky and of all the video I’ve watched, not a single driver seemed to pay it the least bit of attention.
I’m sorry. If I saw something like that blazing a path across the sky in front of me, I’d be slamming on the brakes, rubber necking to see what in the sam hill it was, and at the least, remarking about it. How often does the average person see a ten ton—a TEN TON—piece of rock fall out of the heavens? That chunk of space debris punched an eight meter wide hole in the ice of a frozen lake. Several smaller pieces broke off and one of those pieces slammed into a factory, causing the roof and part of a wall to collapse. It produced a sonic boom strong enough to shatter windows and released more energy than the nuclear bomb North Korea recently detonated in a not so secret test. In just about any circle, that isn’t a normal, every-day occurrence.
And then there was the asteroid 2012 DA14 which passed about 17,000 miles above us, closer than the satellites orbiting the heavens above us. In astronomical terms, that’s razor burn.
These aren’t the first rocks to drop from the heavens. Most of the impact craters from these space bullets have been eroded away over time, because we do live on a living planet, but there are quite a few still visible. Meteor Crater in Arizona is probably the most well preserved of these craters, because of the environment of Arizona itself. Another crater is in the Yucatan Peninsula, known as the Chicxulub Crater. This creation of this crater is probably what sounded the death knell for the dinosaurs.
There are over 170 known or suspected impact craters on Earth, the largest and oldest of these just recently discovered in Greenland. One of the reasons that we don’t have a lot more is because as I said, we live on a living planet and the forces of erosion and tectonic plate movement do gradually erase these scars from the surface of our planet.
However, if it’s all the same to Mother Nature, I’d like to stay out of the shooting gallery. I don’t want to look up into the sky and see a pinpoint of bright light rapidly approaching and realize that I’m standing dead center in the bulls-eye. Or, as one astronomer tweeted, “These events are just the universe’s way of saying ‘How’s that asteroid detection program coming?’”