Asteroid Day 2019 Promotion and NASA, ESA Lists of Asteroid Impact Risks

Asteroid Day is June 28. It is the official United Nations’ day of global awareness and education about asteroids. Redbubble is the largest global marketplace for independent artists. They are partnering to inspire the world about asteroids.

Redbubble announced the launch of a global design contest in May, calling on a community of more than 845,000 artists around the world to create asteroid-related art. Following the contest’s conclusion on June 15, Asteroid Day signatories and astronauts Ed Lu, Nicole Stott, Tom Jones, Chris Hadfield, and Leland Melvin will select three winners and unveil their designs on Asteroid Day Live, June 28th. Winners will receive public recognition from the Asteroid Day signatories, and one grand prize winner will receive a $500 cash award.

Throughout the duration of the contest, non-artists also have the opportunity to participate via weekly trivia challenges on social media that aim to raise awareness about the importance of Asteroid Day. Each week, a trivia participant will be selected at random to receive a $100 voucher to Redbubble.

Although currently detected risks have been low we are not seeing most of the asteroids.

Detecting Asteroids

As of April 2019, twenty thousand near earth asteroids have been found. We are finding them at a rate of 150 new discoveries every month and this number is set to rapidly increase.

NASA’s Pan-STARRS and Catalina sky surveys have detected most of the known near earth asteroids. The European Space Agency will deploy new Flyeye and Test-Bed Telescopes.

The Near Earth Object Survey TELescope (NEOSTEL aka “Flyeye”) is an astronomical survey and early-warning system for detecting near-Earth objects sized 40 meters and above a few weeks before they impact Earth. If we could track all asteroid threats down to 40 meters then we would be safe from impacts down to city level threats.

NEOSTEL is an ESA funded project, starting with an initial prototype currently under construction at OHB in Milan. The telescope is of a new “fly-eye” design inspired by the wide field of vision from a fly’s eye. When complete it will have one of the widest fields of view of any telescope and be able to survey the majority of the visible sky in a single night. If the initial prototype is successful, three more telescopes are planned, in complementary positions around the globe close to the equator.

In terms of light gathering power, the size of the primary mirror is not directly comparable to more conventional telescopes because of the novel design, but is equivalent to a conventional 1 meter telescope and should have a limiting magnitude of around 21.

The project is part of the NEO Segment of ESA’s Space Situational Awareness Programme. The telescope itself should be complete by end of 2019, and installation on Mount Mufara, Sicily should be complete in 2020.

NEOSTEL aka “Flyey

Known Asteroid Risks

This fall, Earth has about a 1-in-7,000 chance of getting hit by asteroid 2006 QV89. Compared to the 6-mile-long (10 kilometers) asteroid that killed the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago, 2006 QV89 is pretty dinky, measuring just 130 feet (40 meters) in diameter, or about the length of two bowling alleys placed end to end.

NASA’s Earth impact monitoring system has detected an asteroid that has a chance of hitting Earth in October. The asteroid, named 2007 FT3, was detected by NASA’s Sentry, an automated system that specifically monitors near-Earth objects that are on potential impact courses with the planet. The asteroids listed by Sentry are those that could hit Earth within the next 100 years.

The earliest possible impact event would occur on Oct. 3. 2019. 2007 FT3’s chances of hitting Earth in October is 1 out of 11 million. Starting in 2024, the asteroid is expected to have near-collisions with Earth on almost a yearly basis.

According to NASA’s database, the asteroid has a diameter of 1,115 feet, making it significantly taller than the Eiffel Tower in France. The space agency predicted that it will enter Earth’s atmosphere with a velocity of 45,600 miles per hour.

Given the asteroid’s size and speed, it will release a huge blast energy if it hits Earth. NASA noted that it will produce an energy equivalent to 2.7 million kilotons of TNT upon impact. This would be 100,000 times the force of the atomic bombs used in WW2.

Written By Brian Wang,

39 thoughts on “Asteroid Day 2019 Promotion and NASA, ESA Lists of Asteroid Impact Risks”

  1. Turns out that “precision” is one of those things that vexes ordinary non-mathematical mortals, in orbital dynamics. 

    1 part per million (an EXCELLENT ephemerides measurement) gets you ±1000 km “hit spot” (or miss) one year later. A much more realistic 5 digit ephemerides gets you about ±13,000 km. 

    That’s enough to hit, or to miss Earth entirely. 

    And for the smaller chunks, which disappear from (cheap) visual acquisition in a few weeks, getting 5 digits is something of a chuckle-producing challenge. 

    Mostly ±50,000 km is the key for any NEO that’s less than 400 m diameter, viewed exactly once. Because it is new.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  2. PS: so if a liter is not a cubic meter,
    And an ‘are’ is not a square meter,
    And a ton IS a megagram but never called so,
    And even a meter is only slightly related to a yard
    Then what the heck is the use fo a meter?

    As far as I can tell, the most screwed of the societally ‘useful’ naming units is the hectare. A hecto of anything is 100, as SI-metric goes. But if a hectare is 100 somethings, and it is 100 x = 10,000 m², then the un-hecto-are (just an are) is then 100 m². Now, that leaves us with the utterly useless definition of 1 m² as a centare. 

    The automagical spell checker even accepts centare. 1m². Wow.

    But then again, 1 m³ is a kiloliter (ever hear anyone using that term? I’ven’t, I don’t think.

    I definitely have heard of the small sub-meters, the micrometer (almost ridiculously called the µm), the millimeter, centimeter, and yes for a while in the 1960s and 1970s, the decimeter. And I’ve definitely heard of hectometers. As in one football pitch. 

    But hectares?

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  3. 1.66 kg is I believe is also nearly ¼ stone. Since the Brits are fond of reckoning the weights of men, horses, cattle, hods of mortar and capacities of wooden carts in stone, well … there you are. Yet another defense of 10²⁷ hydrogen atoms. ¹H atoms, of course.

    GoatGuy ✓ under silly pseudonym.

  4. That’s what I meant by the cubic decimetre being more useful. It gives us the MKS system based on unit measures.

    10²⁷ H atoms is nice and reproducible. No isotopes balances or needing to measure a particular planet. And 27 is a product of 3 which our numbering system works well with. (Powers of 2 are both too small and only makes sense in the last few decades.) Plus 1.66kg is a convenient size. Like kg and lbs it’s the “right size” for humans to measure human sized stuff.

  5. I thought it was 17m, but hey if consensus is now 20, well, 20 it is. Working with the usual sidereal motions, (and the Wikipedia article)…

    |  m = 10,000 kg
    |  d = 17–20 m
    |  v = 19,100 m/s (at entry) 

    From the usual kinetic energy equations…

    |  Ek = ½mv²
    |  … = ½ 10,000 × 19,100²
    |  … = 1.84×10¹² J (÷ 4.184×10⁹ J/kt-TNT)
    |  … = 436 kt-TNT

    So, that’d be the entire kinetic energy. The article goes on to estimate percentage of kinetic energy produced as light and heat, and in sonic boom shock. More than 40% for the pair combined. (20% for light)

    Working backward from mass (10,000 kg) and diameter (20 m), we get a density of

    |  m = ρV
    |  V = ⁴⁄₃ πr³ … r = ½d = 10 m
    |  V = 4,188 m³
    |  ρ = m/V
    |  ρ = 10,000 kg ÷ 4,188 m³
    |  ρ = 2,380 kg/m³

    Fun stuff.
    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  6. That (10²⁷ H atoms) is an interesting mass… 1.66 kg. The biggest “problem” I see with the MKS metric system is that it isn’t based on unitary-multipliers between its parts. 


    gram = 1 cc H₂O (once) at triple point 273.16° K (+0.01° C!) 

    Water being H₂O, but where the H part is munged by having a few parts per thousand of ²H (and a few parts per trillion of ³H) and the O for that matter munged by 2 parts per thousand of ¹⁸O along with the 99.7% of ¹⁶O (and 0.3‰ of ¹⁷O)

    If the isotope proportions where fixed and invariant across all sources of water, well … that’d be nice … but they’re not. 

    Hence why the kilogram has of late been reinvented. 
    Good for it. 

    GoatGuy ✓

  7. SpaceForce experiment gone wrong.

    (As a certain joke goes: “An aspiring artist gets rejected from an art academy. One thing leads to another… the United States drops an atom bomb on Japan.” Same here.)

  8. The problem can be traced back (no surprise) to the French.

    They chose the “rational” measure of the mass of a cube of water based on the “rational” size of the Earth as their unit of mass. But they didn’t choose the obvious cubic metre or the more useful sized cubic decimeter, but instead went for the cubic centimetre because it was almost the same size as an old French jewelry weight called the gramme.

    A truly rational decision would have chosen 10^27 hydrogen atoms.

  9. Some claim comets are more of a danger than asteroids. They make smaller craters so we underestimate the frequency, but are just as destructive.

  10. Nuff said, but maybe it’s time to use the term Mega in it’s proper, original Greek, setting. As in “that’s some f**k**g mega asteroid coming my way (said Aphrodite to Dionysus).

    just sayin’

  11. None of this has the proper Hollywood sense of compounding disaster. Lets go with the triple threat of World Ending:

    1. 5km diameter iron meteor
    2. Directly impacts Yellowstone supervoldano
    3. Trump has won 2020 reelection
  12. My Russian Expat coworkers had a good Chelyabinsk meteor joke that goes something like this:

    “Meteor wants to visit Earth, arrives at Chelyabinsk, realizes that it is better to explode than visit the city”

  13. “Awareness leads to public opinion leads to political pressure leads to funds to deal with the problem.”

    I’m pretty sure that this isn’t how it works for NASA.

  14. OK OK … I was under the impression that colloquially “mt” means “metric ton” since a milliton doesn’t really mean much other than a kilogram. You will find I have edited the comment. 

    I do kind of wonder, why don’t we refer to a metric ton ALSO as a megagram? I mean there’s a perfectly well-defined prefix for the million grams, and anyone at all competent in the tridecadal nomenclature oughtn’t to be even slightly put off by the novel use. But no. 

    Conventionally a metric ton is not a million grams, but a thousand kilograms, a kilo-kilogram. Ah… er… em… uh… OK.

    Your observation that a factor of two (either way!) could come from sidereal kinetics and gravitational accelerations, I totally agree. Indeed … the energy-depth of our gravitational well is what you’re talking about, and that reduces neatly through a bit of first-year calculus (or a 3 second Google search) to 

    V = √( 2 G₀ r_earth )
    V = √( 2 × 9.81 N/kg × 6,366,198 m )
    V = 11,176 m/s … (36,667 ft/s) 
    V = 40,234 km/hr (25,000 MPH)

    Ek = ½mv²
    Ek/m = ½ (20,400 + 11,176)²
    Ek/m = 500,000,000 J/kg (… × 24,000,000,000 kg ÷ 4.184×10¹⁵ J/Mt-TNT)
    Ek tot = 2,800 megaton TNT

    So yah. Another ~11,000 m/s Definitely changes up things some. Funny thing, I rarely remember that term. And I’m USUALLY pretty good at dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. Thx again.


  15. But it does tell us when the next killer is likely to strike, barring surprises. So we keep a list of the highest threats (and all the other known asteroids and comets), and we keep monitoring for any deviations from our predictions and for other surprises. And when we detect a deviation, we update our predictions.

    Not quite what Stan was asking for, I agree, but good enough to plan well in advance, for the most part.

    P.S. Just saw a (fictional) movie yesterday about a comet making a close approach to Earth, where its core split near closest approach and one of the fragments hit Earth. That’s one kind of surprise that’s difficult to plan for.

  16. Plus one as usual…. and then MINUS one for using the metric units g, kg, mt, t, MT.

    m standing for milli in that sequence?

    On energy calculation, I can see that it’s VERY easy to get another factor of 2. For example that velocity is going to change a lot depending on how it orbits the Sun, and how the Earth orbits the sun, changing the relative velocities (which is what counts). And then if it does hit the Earth it gets a fair bit of acceleration as it falls the last few 10 000 km.

  17. Though for the listed issues such as the sun going supernova, we have no chance at all of addressing that within the forseeable future so burying your head in the sand is probably the best approach.

    For a nearby sun going supernova, burying your head (and the rest of you) in the sand is quite possibly the best option we have, at least until the radiation blast passes us by.

    Global plague on the other hand we have ALREADY dealt with a couple of times, so that’s clearly on the list of stuff to not ignore but instead to fund a response.

  18. Yeah, we can predict pretty good approximations with the information and data we have.

    But that gives us a result like “this will come close to Earth in July 2021, with a 0.0008 % chance of actually hitting us”. It doesn’t give us “accurately enough to know exactly when the next killer will strike Earth”

  19. Not only that, light pressure from unknown reflections etc can change things enuf to change things enuf to make a difference over time. Butterfly effect in operation. One of Saturn’s moons switches in and out of 2/3 orbital lock with just such small variable input. DrPat is more than right!

  20. For those inclined to calculate things using their own math…

    1 g-TNT = 1,000 calories (by convention)
    1 g-TNT = 4184 joules
    1 kg-TNT = 4.184×10⁶ J
    1 t-TNT = 4.184×10⁹ J
    1 kt-TNT = 4.184×10¹² J
    1 Mt-TNT = 4.184×10¹⁵ J

    Relative velocity, size, mass of 2007-FT 3

    D = diameter = 1,115 ft × 0.3048 m/ft
    D = 340 m
    V = ⁴⁄₃ πr² … r = 0.5 D = 170 m
    V = 20,000,000 m³

    ρ = density 
    ρ = 1.2 kg/L
    ρ ≈ 1200 kg/m³ (common estimate. No one knows)

    m = mass 
    m = ρV
    m = 24,000,000,000 kg

    v = velocity 
    v ≡ 45,600 mph • ( 5280 ft/mi × 0.3048 m/ft ÷ 3600 sec/hr )
    v = 20,400 m/s 

    Ek = kinetic energy 
    Ek = ½mv²
    Ek = ½ × 20,400² × 24,000,000,000 kg
    Ek = 5×10¹⁸ J … divide by 4.184×10¹⁵ J/Mt-TNT
    Ek = 1,200 Mt … megatons … 

    Which is one BIG FAT EXPLOSION. 

    This assumption takes their numbers and “runs them”; my own fill-in-the-blanks guesses are ρ (density) and shape-of-asteroid (spherical). Seriously … 1,200 MT is only a factor of what, 2 or so? from 2,700 MT NASA estimate.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  21. Awareness leads to public opinion leads to political pressure leads to funds to deal with the problem. Burying your head in the sand isn’t helpful.

  22. However, the biggest influence is the Sun, followed by Jupiter, and then the other giant planets. Furthermore, gravity falls off as the square of the distance, so even the giant planets have limited effect.

    We know exactly where the planets are and where they’re going, so once we have good measurements of an object’s current orbit, we can use simulations to predict how that orbit will be affected by the sun and planets over time.

    At that point, the main uncertainty is from close encounters with smaller bodies (simulating all the bodies is too difficult), but such encounters are rare, and usually affect the orbit only very slightly. So there’s still usually many years until impact, if an impact is set up. But this leaves the need for continuous monitoring, to detect when an orbit shifts away from our predictions.

    Anyway, this still isn’t a timing issue, but a distance issue. We can tell the direction of an object pretty accurately, but we need to know its distance accurately to plot its orbit. Measuring distance is much harder.

  23. With the proper infrastructure in space, these are economic opportunities instead of threats. I would have to say that, if someone with deep pockets could time it properly, the ROI would be significant.

  24. Must there be an “awareness day” for everything? Including one for the complete annihilation of the planet? How about a Let’s-Not-Think-About-That day to NOT be aware of a potential global plague, Earth spins off it’s axis, the Sun goes supernova, or the coming of The Borg?

  25. No. The issue with predicting orbits has nothing to do with our ability to time them properly.

    Any complex set of bodies (more than 2) is just about impossible to predict completely. Google “three body problem”.

    Our solar system has a LOT more than 2 bodies.

  26. To move them any noticeable amount in a reasonable time frame you’d need a radar several orders of magnitude stronger than any we actually have.

  27. Luckily it came in at a glancing blow, as the photo demonstrates. If it had come straight down, it would have done much much more damage.

  28. I’m thinking that with the atomic clock NASA is sending into orbit on the SpaceX Heavy on the 24th, or a next version, it should be able to determine future orbits of large asteroids accurately enough to know exactly when the next killer will strike Earth, so we can plan well in advance.

  29. Chelyabinsk was just 20m, and that did quite a bit of damage. If a 340m (1,115 foot) rock hit, it would not be subtle. I wonder though whether the one over Chelyabinsk was really just 20m. 20m might have just been what did not evaporate early in atmospheric entry. The thing was white hot going through the atmosphere.

    Fortunately, it exploded at 97,000 feet. If it made it to the ground, or detonated at 2,000 feet, Chelyabinsk probably would have been obliterated.

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