Near-Earth asteroid fails to destroy mankind, obliterate all living things

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An asteroid "with an estimated girth as large as a garbage truck" zoomed just 7,500 miles away from Earth today, flying over the Atlantic Ocean without incident. In related news, you are still alive. Reuters, NASA JPL.

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  1. Shocked this isn’t all over the news.

    I’ve often wondered — and asked others … if you were going to die on some given day and either the day before or after an asteroid would slam into earth… would you want to die before after that asteroid hit?

    1. After, of course!

      First there’s the curiosity – it would be neat to see what happened.

      Second, there’s the significance. Dying in the biggest event in human history seems better somehow than missing it and going out in a whimper.

      And third there’s the camaraderie. It seems like it would be nice to go out with a united humanity.

      I don’t understand anyone who would prefer to die before the asteroid hit, unless it was just a question of mode of death.

      1. “I don’t understand anyone who would prefer to die before the asteroid hit,”

        The fear of a horrible death by heat or fire or getting crushed or choking on ash or the anarchistic collapse of society.

      2. “And third there’s the camaraderie. It seems like it would be nice to go out with a united humanity.”

        You’re talking about apocolypse sex, right? Yes, I thought so.

    2. I CANT BELIEVE WE DIDN’T DIE!
      And really would a asteroid the size of a garbage truck destroy the entire planet?

    3. I’ve often wondered — and asked others … if you were going to die on some given day and either the day before or after an asteroid would slam into earth… would you want to die before after that asteroid hit?

      Wait, the choice is to die the day before or the day after a giant Earth-destroying asteroid hit the Earth? The day after, of course, since you must have hooked me up with some awesome life-support to live on another full day!

      Of course, if, in the more mundane interpretation of your question, the asteroid does not destroy the Earth (you don’t specify), then, meh. I guess the day before, as otherwise you’re dealing with the anguish of reading about the couple thousand who died in the morning paper.

  2. From the NASA release, “if a rocky asteroid the size of 2011 MD were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, it would be expected to burn up high in the atmosphere and cause no damage to Earth’s surface.” Also, “one would expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about every 6 years on average.” In other words, not at all dangerous and relatively common.

  3. For those who have missed the (apparent) hyperbole in the writeup: Not large enough to really be of consequence for “general news”. Terribly fascinating for science nerds, but even if it had been a direct hit, it would likely have had no major effect. This was nowhere near an “earth-killing” size.

  4. I’ve seen the size of this asteroid described in various articles and comparable to a, “tour bus”, “house”, “office block”, whatever the hell that is, and now a “garbage truck”. Make up your minds, pundits, sheez!
    From what I gather, the orbit of this object is still not well-enough defined as to preclude it hitting the Earth on one of it’s next few swings.

    IMHO, there IS some huge asteroid, comet, gigantic meteor with our name on it. Just a matter of time. There’s a lot of stuff out there in space. Maybe its time to fire up the giant nuclear laser beams and blast those suckers.

    Or not.

    1. There’s probably nothing to worry about from this guy, even it it did hit us. At that size it would more than likely airbust in the upper atmosphere, with a dozen or so kilotons of boom.

  5. I think I felt the breeze as it went by.

    And Jake0748… I’m with you. I would enjoyed the visual much more if they would have described it as “the size of a dump truck filled with ping pong ball sized hail”.

  6. It was an asteroid the size of a hot fudge sundae – which would, of course, do massive damage.

    (Also, it would cause everyone to behave as though they were ’70s stereotypes until the end.)

  7. I wish it had hit right over top of the night sky above me. It would have been beautiful (and harmless).

      1. I’m well aware of the Tunguska event…

        But sorry, I’ll go with NASA on this one:

        If a rocky asteroid the size of 2011 MD were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, it would be expected to burn up high in the atmosphere and cause no damage to Earth’s surface.

        1. Depends on the density of the asteroid and the speed relative to the earth. Smaller asteroids have made it to the ground.

      2. The Tunguska explosion was likely around 15 megatons, which I believe is more powerful than any nuke currently on hand (although more powerful were made).

        In worst case conditions, this would be roughly .1% of that yield. Cosmic firecracker.

  8. No orbit insertion burn at closest approach. No probes dropped.
    Just a boring old rock.

  9. Oh, that was today, huh? Explains why Malcolm McDowell was atop that big hill out here, raising a ruckus and holding his hands up to the sky. I thought it was the Texas summer sun, made him all crazy-like.

  10. Thank goodness, I would hate to have been wiped out by an asteroid before the zombie apocalypse!

  11. I think this little guy would pencil in at under a megaton of kinetic energy, and no radioactive fallout after the fact. Odds are it would have made an interesting impact in some forest, desert, or ocean.

  12. So what yer sayin’ is, we still have to put up with 5 more years of a Harper government……sigh!

  13. It’ll probably just burn up in our atmosphere.

    And if I’m wrong may we all be horribly crushed from above somehow.

    1. It wouldn’t just burn up, it is too large. Pretty much anything that large will survive but it would probably break up into pieces on the way down.

  14. I think the newsworthiness is due to the fact that they were able to spot this thing at all. It is quite small.

  15. a garbage truck-sized rock certainly would not extinguish life. Not by a wide margin.

    The chicxulub meteor is estimated to 10km diameter! It wiped out the large dinosaurs, but not the small ones or the mammals.

    1. It’s also worth noting:


      The impactor had an estimated diameter of 10 km (6.2 mi) and delivered an estimated 96 teratons of TNT (4.0×1017 MJ).[21] By contrast, the most powerful man-made explosive device ever detonated, the Tsar Bomba, had a yield of only 50 megatons of TNT (2.1×1011 MJ),[22] making the Chicxulub impact 2 million times more powerful. [wikipedia]

      This airburst would be about a third of Tsar Bomba, probably.

      If anyone ever wants nightmares, read the ‘Effects’ section on that page.

      1. It’s also worth noting that I can’t do math.

        This airburst would be 0.0003 Tsar Bombas.

  16. dear boingboing, today, an asteroid missed the earth! today, my girlfriend told me I am going to be a father! today, i realize i am the luckiest man alive! godblessyou boingboing!

  17. I went to a hearing for discipline for my job today. I would have gone a lot different if I had thought that we were all going to die.

    I hope nobody got the news asteroid Winner was coming with the exaggerated claims of death for all and now faces decisions based on bad reporting.

    Please scour the internets for me to find funny stories of people who thought the world was going to end and had a really good time.

  18. We gotta grab one of these things and intentionally put it in orbit. Imagine the amount of nickel and iron in an asteroid! What a windfall. We could melt it and build an interplanetary launch platform out of it without having to shoot all those materials up there ourselves.

    1. Iron and nickle are still pretty cheap down here (especially iron) so going through the time and trouble of getting things up there to mine it and then trying to get the material safely back would be extremely expensive. Not worth it. Now if you could have it hit an empty area on the earth (like the middle of the Sahara) at as slow a speed as possible you could then mine the debris. It still wouldn’t be cheap.

      As far as using it for raw materials in space you still have to launch all the machinery, people, robots, non-ferrous components, fuel, etc. By the time you factor all that in the ferrous parts are a fraction of the total cost.

  19. Or, we can go with the theory that the ‘near-earth asteroids’ are really deep space probes prefacing the invasion. They’re out there. They’re watching us. They’re coming…

    or maybe not. Who can say for sure?

  20. Shields Up!

    Oh wait, they are always up because our atmosphere regularly burns up these little bugger all the time…

    But don’t let that get in the way of the fear mongering… OMG NOES WE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!1111ONE!!!ELEVENTY

  21. time to go back to planet P and clear out those bugs once and for all

    Ready to Join? Do your part!

    1. To fight the bug, we must understand the bug. We can ill afford another Klendathu.

  22. “Near-Earth asteroid fails to destroy mankind, obliterate all living things”

    Sure. . . THIS time.

  23. If at first you don’t succeed, orbit and orbit again.

    Could we restrict it to impacting only certain areas? I have a list here…

  24. The aliens hiding in the asteroid belt sent that as a warning shot to call off the Dawn probe. See the other article on the JPL page?

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-192

    June 23, 2011

    PASADENA, Calif. – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

  25. It only looked like a near-miss. But it’s actually a pretty nifty galactic bar billiards shot: next year, 2011 MD will ricochet off Mars with a bit of side-spin, kiss the moon and careen into us for 10 points.

  26. so…how long before the asteroid completes its orbit and comes back? Where is Neil DeGrasse Tyson when you need him?

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