Deadly planet-smash asteroid was actually Euro probe
Patrick Moore on high alert in space boulder flap rumpus
Asteroid-apocalypse experts were struck by a shower of eggs last week, as they prepared to sound the alarm over an incoming space boulder potentially capable of wiping out life on Earth - only to find that the object was a well-known European space probe on a planned flyby.
The Minor Planet Centre (MPC) - which is to asteroids what the Cheyenne Mountain command bunker was to Russian missiles - raised the alarm last week. The MPC passed the word among astronomers that a deadly celestial object, designated 2007 VN84, would pass within 5,600km of Earth, and asked for tracking information.
That's less than half the Earth's diameter, or to put it another way some of the human race would have been closer to the murderous meteor than to the Earth's core. Only a tiny error in the trajectory of the presumed hurtling colossal space boulder could have seen it blasting the world to smithereens - or at the very least wiping out civilisation, devastating the ecosystem, giving rise to a lot of articles using the phrase "eerily reminiscent", etc. Some kind of plan to pepper 2007 VN84 with nuclear bombs and/or strangely-necessary oil barons played by Bruce Willis would probably have been necessary.
Apparently Bruce Willis had not yet been placed on alert - though a UK backup plan involving Patrick Moore was well under way, according to Metro - when a Russian astronomer piped up.
Muscovite skywatcher Denis Denisenko revealed that the menacing meteor was in fact a
European Union space battleship bent on world domination the European Space Agency Rosetta probe, passing close to Earth for a long-planned gravity-assist "slingshot" manoeuvre.
The MPC meteor watch chiefs were not amused, issuing the following statement, annotated by the Reg.
Denis Denisenko suggested that the object designated 2007 VN84... might be the Rosetta spacecraft. Our investigation of this possibility... shows that this suggestion is indeed correct [god dammit]... This incident... highlights the [god damned] deplorable state of... information on distant artificial objects... data is not always available for the timespans needed. A single source for information on all distant artificial objects would be very desirable. [You Europeans think you're so goddam funny. Well, you wait 'til a real one comes. Who'll be laughing then, huh, chuckleheads? Us, that's who.]
Patrick Moore, having apparently checked matters out personally, seemed reluctant to commit himself. He told Metro: "It certainly wasn't an asteroid. And the last comet to hit us was about 65 million years ago, when the theory is it wiped out the dinosaurs." ®
@ Ian R
<< Sad to see the old fella maligned so much. Sure, he is getting somewhat past it, but what an incredible man in his day and how he advanced space and astronomy to the masses,especially during the days of 1, 2 and 3 TV channels only. >>
Agreed. He's a great man and a great mind, and not only that but - like Hawking (in this sense) - he's the sort of rare intellect whose affection and enthusiasm for his subject can be surprisingly infectious.
It is a shame he gets such a casual hammering from the media these days, and of course the sadly growing number of people who rely purely on the media for their opinions. Yes, he's said one or two things that don't quite fit into our modern political framework, but with the best will in the world he's been around a pretty long time, and when one focuses so keenly on one area it's only to be expected that one might not spend so much effort on the fads and fashions of expression.
I have the MPEC email here
TITLE=(Fwd) MPEC V69: 2007 VN84 [a=1.19,e=0.34,i=1.9,H=26.3] [28805-]
Date sent: Thu, 08 Nov 2007 19:06:04 -0500 (EST)
Snip a bunch of observation stuff
2007 VN84 Earth MOID = 0.0001 AU
Epoch 2007 Oct. 27.0 TT = JDT 2454400.5 MPC
M 302.66563 (2000.0) P Q
n 0.76181070 Peri. 79.69236 -0.65353221 -0.75645089
a 1.1873297 Node 51.14851 +0.68070296 -0.60243373
e 0.3412776 Incl. 1.91562 +0.33096698 -0.25466771
P 1.29 H 26.3 G 0.15 U 9
(Snip the observations and such of which there are many)
The minimum distance from the geocenter is 0.000081 AU (1.89 Earth radii)
on Nov 13.844 UT.This object passes 5000 km from Earth's surface on Nov. 13 at 20 hours UT (Nov.
14 at 9 a.m. NZDT). From the H magnitude its diameter is in the 10-35 metres
There may be some news media interest. Note that the prediction is based on
only 1.6 days of observation.
Many hours of telescope and observer time was waisted because the
European Space Agency did not communicate with the minor planet center.
Ooops PM I course
All this PH talk made me make a typo... I meant PM of course.
But I guess PH travelling at an Angle equating to a collision course with tunguska might result in a Bulgarian Airbug Burst.