Forget Climate Change, a big fricken rock is going to kill us all

The left would have it that we are all going to roast from Climate Change.

But there are other bigger scarier problems out there.

Planet Earth could be at higher risk of a space-rock impact than widely thought, according to astronomers who this week suggested keeping a closer eye on distant giant comets.

Most studies of potential Earth-smashers focus on objects in the asteroid belt roughly between Mars, Earth’s outside neighbour, and Jupiter on its other flank, said the researchers.

But they noted that the discovery in the last two decades of hundreds of giant comets dubbed centaurs, albeit with much larger orbits, requires expanding the list of potential hazards.

These balls of ice and dust, typically 50km to 100km wide, have unstable, elliptical orbits that start way beyond Neptune, the most distant planet from the Sun.   

Their paths cross those of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, whose gravity fields occasionally deflect a comet towards Earth – once about every 40,000 to 100,000 years.

As they draw closer to the sun, the comets would gradually break up, which is what causes the trademark cometary debris tail – “making impacts on our planet inevitable”.

“The disintegration of such giant comets would produce intermittent but prolonged periods of bombardment lasting up to 100,000 years,” the research team wrote in the Royal Astronomical Society journal, Astronomy and Geophysics.

And they argued that “assessment of the extraterrestrial impact risk based solely on near-Earth asteroid counts, underestimates its nature and magnitude”. They noted that a single centaur contains more mass than the entire population of Earth-crossing asteroids discovered to date.

“In the last three decades, we have invested a lot of effort in tracking and analysing the risk of a collision between the Earth and an asteroid,” said co-author Bill Napier of the University of Buckingham.

“Our work suggests we need to look beyond our immediate neighbourhood too, and look out beyond the orbit of Jupiter to find centaurs.

“If we are right, then these distant comets could be a serious hazard, and it’s time to understand them better.”

Understand them better? Are they like Muslims?

“A centaur arrival carries the risk of injecting, into the atmosphere … a mass of dust and smoke comparable to that assumed in nuclear-winter studies,” wrote the researchers, referring to the hypothesised climate effects from the soot that would be released by firestorms caused in an atomic war.

“Thus, in terms of magnitude, its ranking among natural existential risks appears to be high,” they said.

So…global warming could be quite useful if a centaur event strikes the planet?


– NZ Herald

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.