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Yeah, I’ve been drowning in work and grad school lately, so this place has been a little neglected. When I have time, I’m sure I may craft up a post combining the week-long cruise Pam and I took as well as my overwhelming love of grad school. Until then, I found something post-worthy to fill the gap:

Political gridlock… corrupted business… the economy and Wall Street going down in flames (the Dow Jones down to 6700?  Ouch!)… the news of the past 6 months almost sounds like Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire!  With all the news-induced hullabaloo surrounding the economy, unemployment and some stupid surprise ending in the Bachelor, I blinked my eyes and almost missed a true story: one that maybe had the potential to negate all of the rest of them.

41,000 miles.  That’s about 2 years worth of driving, assuming you put on the same mileage-per-year that I do.  Or if it helps, that distance is also a bit under 2 trips around the world.  It may seem like a large distance to travel, but it’s easily attainable.  In a cosmic light, 41,000 miles is about 1/5 of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.  You’d have to multiply 41,000 miles by 360 to get Earth’s closest point to the next nearest object (Venus).  In that perspective, it becomes a rather insignificant distance: 41,000 miles.

Apparently, an asteroid the size of a 10-story building passed within 41,000 (plus or minus a few thousand) miles of Earth yesterday.  Granted, it was on a set trajectory with no risk of collision… perhaps bringing the lackluster news coverage.  So “big deal” you may say.

But think about this: that asteroid was moving at 12 miles-per-second.  At that rate, it could easily cover 41,000 miles in under 57 minutes.  This particular asteroid (2009 DD45) was first discovered about 2 days prior (on 28Feb) to its 41,000-mile near miss on 2Mar.  Moving at those speeds, 2 days doesn’t really give mankind too much reaction time.  Perhaps 2 days would be enough to initiate a hurricane-style evacuation of the areas around the predicted point of impact.  An asteroid of this size would take out 800 square miles of land (the size of a large city).

Astronomers are doing their best spotting and cataloguing Earth-threatening objects everyday through NASA’s Near Earth Object program.  So far, they’ve catalogued some 450 objects that require “increased monitoring.”  Asteroid 2009 DD45 was not among these.

We know some of what’s out there, but we do not know all.  While I was in pilot training, there was a saying that “everyday, you’re only 3 days away from washing out.”  I guess the reason this asteroid event sticks to me so much is because “everyday, we may only be 2 days away from being wiped off this planet.”  Profound.

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