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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Don't say I didn't warn you

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, June 29, 2017 09:26 am

I don't want to unduly alarm you, but while you're worried about trifles like clean air and water and nuclear proliferation and global warming, there is a very real danger threatening the planet. It's one thing to consider the possibility that the Earth might heat up 2 whole degrees centigrade in the next 100 years, causing — gasp! — melting ice and rising tides and longer growing seasons, but what about an asteroid hitting the planet with an amazing 750 megatons of energy — only 12 years from now. If you want a figure for comparison, the Tunguska event — which flattened a huge forested area in Russia's Siberia — is thought to have only been about 10 megatons of force.

Say hello to 99942 Apophis, a 40 million ton asteroid with an estimated diameter of over 1,200 feet. Adophis s going to make "a very close pass of Earth in 2029," and that flyby could determine the fate of our planet in the not-so-distant future.

So, OK, the actual catastrophe won't happen in 2029, but what happens then will likely cause the catastrophe not long after that:

“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the Earth,” Astronomer Alberto Cellino told Astrowatch. “But then the orbit will change in a way that is not fully predictable just now, so we cannot predict the behavior on a longer timescale.”

The flyby in 2029 will be extremely close, with the rock expected to pass within 20,000 miles of Earth's surface. That's a ridiculously close shave by space standards, and it's such a tight squeeze that the gravity of Earth is expected to alter the path of Apophis in such a way that its future passes will become much more unpredictable until further forecasting can be accomplished.

"Much more unpredictable." We all know what that means — "Scientists can't rule out collision," just like the headline says. "Can't rule out collision." We all know what that means. We're all going to die!

We can't be lulled into complacency by the deliberately low-keyed predictions of scientists who say that if the asteroid hits, "it could create a crater about 1.25 miles across and almost 1,700 feet deep." We're looking at a near-extinction-level event, and scientists are just too scared to tell us. They've been so burned by the uproar over their common-sense "science is settled" statements about climate change that they've become reluctant to speak their minds.

Just consider this dire warning from Time magazine, well-known and -respected for its predictions of the coming ice age and other environmental catastrophes:

As with a nuclear blast, the devastation would be greatest at the epicenter of the event and fade the farther away you moved, and while there would be no radiation to contend with, the immediate destruction would be pretty much the same. In a 6.5 mi. radius, all that would be left of most buildings would be the foundations, though some sturdier, reinforced structures like stocky old banks might survive. Out to 11 or so miles, multi-story buildings would be skeletonized—their curtain walls stripped away and only their frameworks left standing. Small, individual family homes would be destroyed completely. It would not be until about 20 miles away that most tall buildings would survive—windowless, to be sure—and some single-family dwellings would too. The economic damage—nationally and globally—would be incalculable.

Tunguska-type hits are rare—even smaller asteroids like 2012 DA14 strike the planet only once every 1,200 years or so. Bigger objects—on the order of 2 km (1.25 mi.)—hit only every 100,000 years or so. The stakes being what they are, though, that's little comfort. When you're dealing with something like asteroids, all it takes is one. That's something the dinosaurs of 65 million years ago could tell you—if an asteroid hadn't killed them all, of course.

That's right, people. The dinosaurs, who were a lot bigger than us and had been around a lot longer, were wiped out by a single planet-killing rock hurtling in from space.

 It is widely agreed that such an object — 10 kilometers across — struck just off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago.

 According to scientists who maintain that dinosaur extinction came quickly, the impact must have spelled the cataclysmic end.

For months, scientists conclude, dense clouds of dust blocked the sun's rays, darkening and chilling Earth to deadly levels for most plants and, in turn, many animals. Then, when the dust finally settled, greenhouse gases created by the impact caused temperatures to skyrocket above pre-impact levels.

In just a few years, according to this hypothesis, these frigid and sweltering climatic extremes caused the extinction of not just the dinosaurs, but of up to 70 percent of all plants and animals living at the time.

This isn't speculation, people — it's science! Did you pick up on the language? It is"widely agreed." "According to scientists." "Scientists conclude." Not a few scientists. Not some scientists. What we have here is a consensus of the scientific community.

And if it happened once, it can happen again. And if scientists don't think it will, why did Congress approve $50 million for near-earth object observations and planetary defense in 2016, up from just $4 million in 2010. Why do NASA scientists, who say that the best way to stop an asteroid or comet from hitting the Earth on such short notice may be to send a spacecraft up to intercept it, believe we should be "building several interceptor vehicles and keeping them on standby in the event of an impending collision"? Such vehicles would "sit in storage until needed to redirect an incoming asteroid or comet, eliminating the need to rush to meet a deadline."

Of course,whatever they do, it will be too little, too late. We've all seen the movies. They'll stay in a state of denial until there's barely time left to make emergency preparations to save maybe 5,000 or 10,000 people in the pathetic hope that they can somehow restart the human race.

To do better, we must start right now, and every single person on Earth must be involved. We're not talking about some itty bitty little punitive carbon tax that will make people whine about stunting economic growth and such nonsense. The only way all people can be involved is if they are acting as one, and that requires nothing less than a world government. And nothing concocted by the pathetic United Nations, which couldn't command a Girl Scout troop and make it stick. No, we need a government with real teeth that can commandeer people's time, money and labor for an all-out effort. Certainly, there will be resistance, and the government must take whatever measures necessary to quell it. Since billions of people are going to be lost no matter what we do, getting rid of a few million troublemakers can be seen as part of the solution rather than as a problem.

If we start right now, and we keep at it diligently, there is no doubt that when the asteroid hits, we might be able to save as many as 50,000, maybe even 75,000, instead of a pathetic 5,000 or 10,000. I ask you, isn't that worth whatever sacrifice it takes?

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