Asteroid 2012 DA14: How we might stop a killer asteroid with paint
Asteroid is nature's warning shot across our bow.
Tomorrow, a space rock with the power to destroy a small town will pass closer to Earth than some satellites orbit. Known merely as 2012 DA14, the asteroid will be the largest object in known history to brush past the Earth. Scientists believe that sooner or later, 2012 DA14, or a similar object will strike the planet, causing catastrophe. How to save the planet from disaster is a hot topic in scientific circles.
Hollywood's had its say, but according to scientists, those might not be the best approaches. Indeed, the scientific approach could be as simple as "tagging" the asteroid.
Tagging is the slang term for spray painting graffiti onto the walls of public spaces. How interesting then, to see it suggested as a means of saving the planet from destruction. Despite the amusing connection however, the idea is based on sound scientific principles.
A phenomenon known as the Yarkovsky effect, says that as an object heats up in space, the side which is heated acts like a miniature rocket, naturally propelling objects away from the sun, albeit very slightly. A similar effect is seen in a Crooke's radiometer, or light mill. A light mill is made of an airtight bulb with vanes mounted on a spindle. Panels on the vanes are painted white and black and when exposed to sunlight, they spin. Note that this is not the same principle at work, but merely an illustration.
In the same vein, merely painting an asteroid white would cause its orbit to change. Not only would the paint itself add mass to the object, but the Yarkovsky effect would cause the object to be pushed slightly away from the sun. Although the force is slight, it would be constant and over long periods of time, it would move the object into a new, safer orbit.
Unfortunately for our team of intrepid taggers who would be sent to paint the asteroid white, spray paint won't do the trick. The nature of space would actually cause the particles of paint to evaporate without sticking to anything. Instead, an unmanned probe would probably be sent to spray the surface of the killer rock with an electrically charged powder, which would stick quite well.
This approach would not work if the asteroid were likely to hit the Earth within a short time span, such as months to days. In all cases, it would need several years to be effective. However, with improved detection techniques, we should have the lead time we require.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 is nature's warning shot across our bow. Larger rocks have hit, such as the one that killed the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. A similarly sized rock caused the Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908. If Asteroid 2012 DA14 were to strike the Earth someday, it would not likely cause a catastrophe, especially if it fell in an uninhabited region. However, nature has made clear that larger rocks are out there, and some are genuine planet killers.
If we wish to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs, then we must keep an eye on the heavens and, we suppose, a can of paint handy.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Technology News
- Israeli scientists discover substance that may fend off Alzheimer's, Aging and Parkinson's
- Don't cry for Comet ISON, another stupendous sky show is coming!
- FANTASTIC! Mile-long floating city would house 50,000 permanent residents
- COMET ISON BREAKS UP!
- Where you can watch the death of Comet ISON live as it happens
- Showtime for Comet ISON!
- Astronomers observe the biggest, and scariest event in the universe since the beginning of time
- Genetic sequence from 24,000-year-old boy is oldest genome from human to date
- Rocket launches record-setting 29 satellites into space, visible along entire Eastern U.S.
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?