The mammoth asteroid set to fly by Earth last night just disappeared...As Instapundit quipped "TURNED ON THE CLOAKING DEVICE."
Last night, a giant asteroid was supposed to streak by the Earth, close enough for us to catch a glimpse as it zipped by. Except it never showed, and now astronomers say they have no idea just where the 900-foot asteroid has gone.
So, just how does one misplace an asteroid the size of three football fields? The most likely explanation is that its orbit was miscalculated. Even with its current whereabouts unknown, the near earth asteroid poses no present danger to Earth — in fact, if anything, its loss indicates that 2000 EM26 is probably further out in space that was originally thought.
Still, the Slooh observatory is trying to track down the asteroid using robotic telescopes, and has also asked amateur astronomers to help out with the search. "We don't have the authority to name the asteroid after [its finders]," the observatory said, "but we would if we could."
No biggie, after all, how much damage could ball of dirt 300 feet across do?
It's difficult to imagine 1 million megatons, so let's try some smaller sizes. Let's say that an asteroid the size of a house crashed on Earth at 30,000 mph. It would have an amount of energy roughly equal to the bomb that fell on Hiroshima -- perhaps 20 kilotons. An asteroid like this would flatten reinforced concrete buildings up to half a mile from ground zero, and flatten wooden structures perhaps a mile and a half from ground zero. It would, in other words, do extensive damage to any city.So, enough to take out Washington D.C. and many nearby suburbs?
If the asteroid is as big as a 20-story building (200 feet on a side), it has an amount of energy equal to the largest nuclear bombs made today -- on the order of 25 to 50 megatons. An asteroid like this would flatten reinforced concrete buildings five miles from ground zero. It would completely destroy most major cities in the United States.
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