If these fragments had hit Earth instead..

Some good news for Queen’s University after the recent Clinton airport episode.. As the BBC report, Dr Alan Fitzsimmons and his colleagues at the Astrophysics Research Centre are to head up UK efforts to identify Near Earth Objects, of which one or two potentially hazardous examples have been mentioned recently [and are likely to continue to feature in reports – Ed]. They’ll be using data collected by the new Pan-Starrs observatory in Hawaii along with researchers at Edinburgh and Durham – who will be working on more distant objects in the Universe. [Lembit will be pleased – Ed]From the Queen’s University Astrophysics Research Centre’s statement

A primary goal of the Pan-STARRS project will be to survey nearby space for asteroids and comets that could collide with the Earth in the future, so-called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). While current searches are sensitive to asteroids a km across or larger, Pan-STARRS will be the first telescope to discover large numbers of smaller NEOs.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queens University will be studying these new objects to investigate what fraction are comets and what they are made of. Speaking about Queens involvement in the project he said: We will be concentrating on the smallest Near-Earth Objects, as we know very little about these bodies. Yet they hit our Earth much more frequently than large asteroids and comets, so we need to know their physical and chemical make-up if we want to understand the risk posed by them.

By monitoring the whole sky every week, Pan-STARRS will also become the world’s leading search for exploding stars called supernovae. A supernova is a fantastically energetic explosion at the end of the life of a very massive star. They are a billion times brighter than the sun and can be seen in the distant Universe.

The Queen’s astronomers will be part of a larger consortium using data collected by the new telescope

Over 30 world-renowned scientists and their graduate students have committed themselves to analysing the unprecedented flood of data from PS1 over the next three and half years and Kenneth Chambers, from the University of Hawaii, who as Project Scientist is responsible for carrying out the PS1 survey said: “We decided to recruit a number of top astronomers to join us in order to make the best use of this fantastic instrument.

Rolf Kudritzki, Director of UH’s Institute for Astronomy added: “We are delighted to have assembled a powerful consortium that includes the prestigious Max Planck Society in Germany, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Las Cumbres Observatory in the USA and Durham, Edinburgh and Queens Universities in the United Kingdom”.

More on the potential threat to Earth from asteroids and comets from the Pan-STARRS website

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  • of which one or two potentially hazardous examples have been mentioned recently [and are likely to continue to feature in reports – Ed].

    Take it easy Sluggiepoos, the odds are that Jackie and Elvis will land their UFO on the White House lawn before we have to send Bruce Willis up to deal with one of dem asteroid critters.

    The probability of Apophis making an impact in 2036 is currently listed by JPL as 0.000022. Your odds at surviving a trip on the A2 are worse.

    Now, just for the few that enjoy getting their sphincters in a twist:

    The front runners are currently 2006 JY26 with a 0.0054 probability of impact (1/2%) in 2074 and a bang value of 1/3 the Hiroshima bomb; and

    2000 SG344 with a 0.0018 probability of impact (1/5%) starting around 2068 and a bang value of 47 Hiroshima bombs. That one is a real crowd pleaser.

    Take heart Sluggiepoos, the glass is really half full: The planet will either poison us or we will nuke ourselves out of existence long before any of these critters hit.

  • Pete Baker

    Well I was critical of the sensationalist reporting on Apophis at the time, Jim, as the linked note above will show…

    It’s not the NEOs we know of that pose the potential problem, it’s the ones we don’t. Those smaller objects would still make a helluva mess.

    But then I’ve always been a glass half empty kinda guy.

  • “Those smaller objects would still make a helluva mess.”

    And I’ll be in the backyard with my SCT and a sixpack watching it all happen.

    Be a damned shame if it happened during the day.

  • Pete Baker

    A damned shame, indeed.

    Btw, I’m still half empty here, Jim..

  • “Btw, I’m still half empty here, Jim..

    That’s where the sixpack comes in.

  • Pete Baker


  • Crataegus

    I’m hoping for divine intervention at St Andrew’s. Something quite small would do say the size of a brick travelling at a good speed.

  • Rory

    It’s all very well for you to be complacent, Smilin’ Jim, but Pete has to consider the effect on property prices in Helen’s Bay and Clandeboy.

    Never mind about all your “point nought, nought noughts” – what does J.N Darby have to say on the matter? We need a reliable source for peace of mind.

  • what does J.N Darby have to say on the matter?

    Yer man never bothered much about hurtling rocks. For him Ezekiel and John’s acid trip in that island cave off Turkey said it all.

    Seven years of tribulation followed by a thousand years of peace. The only object from outer space in this disaster is Jesus floating down through the fluffy clouds.

    The “next” best date was set by Jack Van Impe as 2011 and Tim LaHaye has it scripted to include the head of the UN as the Antichrist. It’s a package deal and you won’t even need a SAG card.

    My all time favorite candidate for the Antichrist was Ronald Wilson Reagan touted at the time since each name contains six letters. 666, get it?

    This DaVinci moment was brought to you by an obscure nineteenth century Irish cleric.

  • Brian Boru

    The major powers need to work together on some kind of nuclear-missile-defence against this threat.

  • Crataegus

    The problem with these is though the risk is small the effect if they do hit is potentially all consuming so how do you react to such a threat? Small objects are hitting earth on a regular basis and some day something a bit larger will land. Personally I would like to see a globally funded space programme, it would be good for engineering and science, but am not so sure that NASA should have the lead role. A lot of what they do is decidedly long in the tooth.

  • circles

    Face it people – we’re a bigger threat to human survival on this planet than any space stone whizzing about up there. Lets keep our eyes on the big green and blue ball shall we?

  • Crataegus

    But Circles going into space helped us view the world as a blue and green ball in the first place.

  • circles

    Crat – I think we knew the earth was round long before that. Anyway, I’m not saying that we should turn our backs to the sky, just that the major threats facing our survival here come from us. A multi-billion pound untested asteroid super-zapper may set sci-fi hearts racing, but at the end of the day we are living well beyond our means here at the minute, and if we don’t get our act together, an asteroid impact in the near future could actually just be putting Mother Earth out of her misery. Just the universe engaging a little euthanasia.

  • Crataegus


    I wasn’t so much thinking in terms of the Asteroid zapper as I doubt if anything we have would have much impact on a few cubic kilometres of iron heading our way. It was the potential of zero gravity for research and industrial applications and just the challenge would produce significant advance in technology which I think we need to help address the issues here on Earth. Imagine proper research stations orbiting earth and the sheer technical difficulties.

    On Earth unless we reduce population growth and rationalise consumption we are doomed. My view is that there is no possibility of getting a global agreement on the sort of measures necessary to reverse climate change and there is less possibility of any country agreeing to more equitable distribution of resources unless that country is at the bottom of the ladder. Sadly nature will adjust and humanity will feel it in the not too distant future. We won’t act until the problem is on us.

  • bertie

    Have we have Lembit’s reaction?

  • Rory

    The major powers need to work together on some kind of nuclear-missile-defence against this threat.

    Good thinking, Brian Boru. Perhaps a joint conference of UVF, UDA, RIRA, INLA and CIRA (have I missed anyone?) is now essential to save the human race from total catastrophe.

    Perhaps the conference could be jointly chaired by Ruth Dudley Edwards, Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger and Bruce Willis (with Johnny Adair as stand-by if Willis is unavailable due to location filming demands).

  • “The major powers need to work together on some kind of nuclear-missile-defence against this threat.”

    I assuming you are taking the piss ?

    didn’t hollywood convince you it was better to take a big one on the chin, than blow the fucker into gravel & spread the destruction further ?