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A NHNE Special Article:

Doomsday Asteroids

Friday, November 17, 1995
(From News Brief 12)
By David Sunfellow




Copyright 1995 By NewHeavenNewEarth
Published By NewHeavenNewEarth / nhne@nhne.com

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Doomsday Asteroids
By David Sunfellow

Most of us probably think the most serious threats planet Earth faces come from earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, holes in the Earth's ozone, global warming, nuclear explosions, maybe even pole shifts. But a recent National Public Television special presented by NOVA uncovered another, much more serious threat. Called, "THE DOOMSDAY ASTEROID," the NOVA special spelled out in chilling detail the threat planet Earth faces from being struck by marauding comets and asteroids.

Science has long believed that the Earth was pummeled by asteroids, comets and other massive heavenly bodies in the early days of its formation--over 3 billion years ago. But, until recently, most scientists thought this was an event limited to Earth's distant past. They also believed the ancient celestial pounding eventually gave way to billions of years of gradual, non-catastrophic, evolution.

Now, however, a series of stunning new discoveries have proven that the Earth has not only been catastrophically pummeled, repeatedly, in the last few million years, but it is also in danger of being plummeted again, at any moment, by asteroids and comets, some of which are as large as entire states. If we could see what is sailing in between the distant stars and our tiny little planet, one expert says we would see 100 million chunks of ice and rock ominously whizzing through the skies.

These modern day revelations are currently traced back to Gene Shoemaker, an astronomer with THE UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY'S LOWELL OBSERVATORY. In the 1950's, Shoemaker sent shock waves through the scientific community by suggesting that various craters on our planet (and the moon) were formed by asteroids or comets, rather than volcanic eruptions, which was what most scientists believed at the time.

Using the moon's potholed surface as a reference point, Shoemaker set out to see how often celestial objects smashed into the moon and, by extension, also struck the Earth. With the help of modern satellite and aerial surveillance, Shoemaker and other scientists soon identified over 200 impact sites around the planet. One of these impact sites, which measured 100 miles across and which was buried a mile beneath the Earth surface, dated back 64 million years ago--the exact same time dinosaurs mysteriously vanished from the earth. Supporting the idea that whatever struck the Earth 64 million years ago unleashed a global catastrophe, geologists the world over have discovered a dark ring in the geological history of the planet that contains elements very common to asteroids, but very rare on Earth. The geological records above the dark layer contain records of mammals and other recent life forms, while the geological records below contain the records of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. The dark layer also bears witness to some kind of massive global firestorm. And while scientists still aren't sure how, exactly, the dinosaurs were killed off (or, for that matter, how exactly, two thirds of the rest of the Earth's species were killed off and 90% of the Earth's biomass burned up), there is evidence:

That was 64 million years ago. What about now?

In June of 1908 another heavenly body exploded in the air above Siberia with a force 100 times greater than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. While some people have speculated that a UFO of some kind was responsible, the NOVA special indicated that scientists are now certain that the Siberian explosion was the result of another meteorite. If a similar explosion took place over New York City, experts predict that a half million people would die. Eyewitnesses in cities all over Europe at the time of the Siberian explosion said that one could read a book by the light of the midnight sky.

More recently, in July of 1994, much of the world watched as the Shoemaker-Levy Comet, which was made up of 21 different chunks, smashed into Jupiter. Along with leaving black marks the size of planet Earth on Jupiter's surface, the spectacular crash also made it clear that comets and asteroids are a serious threat to our fragile little planet.

Unfortunately, most of the Earth's current telescopes are designed to study large planetary bodies far from Earth, rather than smaller celestial bodies merrily zipping past the Earth in close quarters. Now that "Earth-crossing" asteroids and comets are beginning to emerge as an extremely dangerous threat, scientists are already saying that it is not a matter of "if" these flying chunks of space debris strike, but "when."

Driving home the point, the NOVA special indicated that the only Earthly presence that is systematically monitoring Earth-crossing materials is the defense industry, in particular, the U.S. Defense Department. And some U. S. Defense Department records indicate that the Earth has, indeed, been recently struck by meteorites. What few records have been made public indicate that the Earth has been struck so often that scientists who have been studying the situation are saying that there may be a great many more Earth-crossing asteroids and comets than previously thought--which would make the situation even more dangerous.

So what should we do?

Shoemaker and others suggest a good place to start would be identifying as many Earth-crossing asteroids and comets as possible. These experts indicate that even a modest effort could locate as many as 90% of the celestial bodies that pose a potential threat to planet Earth. At the current rate, with only Shoemaker and the handful of other astronomers working on the problem, they estimate it will take 500 to 600 years to get the job done.

After the skies have been mapped, then it would be time to figure out what to do with the heavenly bodies that are on a collision course with our planet. Vaporizing them with nuclear missiles and/or altering their courses are possible. But while the technology exists to defend our planet from wayward celestial bodies, an effective job would require serious study. Scientists would need to know what, exactly, the asteroids are made of and how, exactly, to deal with them. A carelessly aimed missile, for instance, could end up breaking a huge asteroid into a bunch of smaller ones, which could then strike the Earth in several places--and be all the harder to stop.

At this point, only two things are certain: 1. The Earth could be hit at any moment by some roving asteroid or comet; 2. It will be hit, again, unless something is done to prevent it.



 


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