Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Imagining a potential catastrophe

At Bad Astronomy Phil Plait, astronomer and author of Death From The Skies!writes:
Take a moment and indulge me. I want you to imagine a scenario.

Astronomers mapping the sky find a moving object, incredibly faint, in their data. It’s moving slowly, so it’s very far away and probably small. Their best guess is that it’s an asteroid about a kilometer across.

Because it’s faint and relatively far away, they can only get a very rough estimate of its orbit. It appears to be on a trajectory that brings it into the inner solar system, but it’s not possible to reliably say more than that.

A report is made, some other scientists try observing it, but for many the signal from it is just too hard to make out. Every now and again, someone follows up to see if they can refine its orbit. When they can spot it the orbit gets refined a bit better, but it’s still rough. Calculations show it getting no closer to the Sun than Mars, but with a wide margin of error. A handful of papers are published arguing over the shape of the orbit.
Read more at Bad Astronomy.

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