Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Small Asteroid Passes Between Satellites and Earth

"The asteroid passed just under the orbits of geostationary satellites, which at 22,300 miles (36,000 kilometers) altitude are the highest manmade objects circling Earth. Most other satellites, along with the International Space Station, circle the planet at just a few hundred miles up."

Although the article goes on to reassure us that the asteroid would have posed no threat had it entered the Earth's atmosphere, it wisely acknowledges the astronomical "blind spot" suffered by ground-based telescopes. In other words, if this rock had been a bit bigger, oceanic quakes would be fighting for headline-space right now.

It's quite possible -- although by no means certain -- we will see the "big one" coming far enough in advance to take defensive action. Ironically, it's the smaller ones that concern me the most. If one of them were to impact near a city, the blast would probably be attributed to a nuclear strike -- and in the ensuing flurry of confusion and finger-pointing, it's plausible a "retaliatory" attack would be launched . . . ultimately resulting in a perfectly meaningless nuclear conflagration.

Conversely, the threat of space-borne rock could be used as a cover for a real nuclear attack in much the same way the US Air Force worried that spurious UFO reports could be spread by Soviet disinformationists in an effort to mask an actual air-strike.

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