Daily Archives: February 15, 2013
So early this morning a ten ton space rock slammed into the atmosphere above Siberia. It streaked across the sky then exploded with the force of an atomic bomb miles above the surface. It was an amazing sight but also somewhat tragic as around 1,000 peopled were injured by shattered glass from the enormous shockwave it created tearing through the air. Now for thousands of people it has become difficult to heat their homes and businesses with no windows in weather that is well below freezing.
But taking away the spectacle and tragedy of the event I found myself appreciating one fact. For once, at long last, here’s an event that no one can point fingers on. This meteoroid had been circling the sun long before humans even walked on the earth. From the moment the universe was created, that ten ton rock was destined to crash down to earth today, whether there were humans here or not. So we can’t blame it on global warming, politicians, corporations or policies. There are certain forces in our continuum that are beyond our ability to control, and this was a shining (literally) example one of them. A tragedy of inescapable fate.
But even I underestimated human arrogance. It didn’t take long for political figures to call for more robust sky searching and a plans to seek and shoot these things out of the sky. Commentors on the stories cried of the injustices of cutting science and exploration program budgets that could have PREVENTED this! I find it hard to believe that some people think so highly of the human race. That we are only a few misplaced intentions away from solving any problem that stands in our path to Utopia. Doesn’t anyone ever reflect on our utter insignificance in the universe?
I think people just don’t fathom the scale involved here. The sky is a big place. The sky is measured in degrees, and the total area of the sky is about 40,000 square degrees. By comparison the moon is only about 0.5 degrees across, which gives an area of approximately 0.2 square degrees. So the moon takes up only 0.0005% of the sky. That’s one-twenty-thousandth of the sky! And you thought the moon was pretty big! And it is. It’s 2,150 miles wide and it’s 239,000 miles away. Let’s compare that to this meteor that is guestimated to be (generously) 60 feet wide. So the moon is 189,000 times larger than this meteor. Therefore if we would have discovered this meteor as it came within the orbit of the moon around earth, it would still only appear in 1/3.8×10^10 of the sky. That’s 1/38 billionth of the sky. In other words… it would have been remarkable to have seen this thing coming.
Now let’s talk about the speed. This thing entered the atmosphere at 19 miles PER SECOND. Let’s say IF you caught sight of this tiny little thing at the same distance of the moon’s orbit, you would have almost exactly 3.5 hours until impact. That’s 3.5 hours to detect it, calculate the trajectory, inform missle command, evaluate the probability of hitting a populated area, program the missile guidance, launch the missle and intercept the meteoriod. Does anything happen that fast at your job?
Let’s face it. Our lives here are insignificant and fragile. We can no more prevent our demise than we can take credit for our existence. That’s not a “God” thing, it’s just a sum of the forces at work in the universe. On most days we can blame each other for most of our problems… but today was not one of those days.