Jan 24, 2008

Is 2007 TU24 A Wake Up Call?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks, space

On January 29th, 2008 Near Earth Object 2007 TU24 will intersect Earth’s orbit at the startlingly close proximity of only 0.0038AU — or 1.4 lunar distances from our own planet. According to the resources I reviewed this NEO represents the closest known approach to earth until 2027 — that is of course assuming no more surprises like 2007 TU24 which itself wasn’t discovered until October 11th of 2007.

It seems to me that this is an assumption we can’t afford to make. It appears that 2007 TU24 is not going to strike the planet however it is possible that it will pass through a portion of earth’s magnetosphere. The repercussions of this transit can’t at this time be predicted with any certainty though they apparently range from no effect whatsoever to potentially catastrophic changes to weather, tectonic plate movement, the oceans and more.

Some might say that we’ve no need to be concerned — that this kind of near miss (and lets be frank here — in the vastness of even our solar system 1.4 lunar distances from earth is a near miss) is a freak occurrence. Don’t be so sure. Just one day later — that’s right, on January 30th it was thought possible — one might even say reasonably likely — that another asteroid will strike our second nearest celestial neighbor, Mars.

Recent updates based upon more detailed information about the path of asteroid 2007 WD5 have concluded that the odds of an impact occurring have now dropped to one in ten thousand making an impact exceptionally unlikely. However, it should be evident that our ability to identify objects less than 100 meters across is insufficient to provide us with enough time to do anything aside from evacuating the regions likely to be impacted by a collision with an incoming NEO.

More than one expert has come out and stated that NEO’s represent one of the most pressing potential mega-disasters threatening human — or even all — life on earth, yet this is a problem that could be solved within the capabilities of our technology. Between better early detection and development of a meaningful defensive strategy it is possible to protect humanity from this threat. All we need is the funding and the mandate from the people that would secure the resources required.


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. robomoon says:

    Prevent the impact of a NEO?

    1st scenario: prevent impact. 100 percent of humanity survives. 200 years later, humanity has lowered biodiversity very much. 400 years later, humanity is getting extinct because of war and insufficient natural resources.

    2nd scenario, do not prevent impact. 30 percent of humanity survives and biodiversity is getting much lower too. 100 years later, humanity is growing again. 10000 years later, biodiversity is getting better and humanity still exists.

    3rd scenario, announce that you are able to prevent the impact of a great asteroid. Because of an accident, you miss to deflect a smaller asteroid on time. The country where the impact of the smaller asteroid would occur must be evacuated. 70 percent of humanity survives after the impact. Many people are upset that the impact happened while you had rockets to deflect it. Chaos and terror reigns which causes humans to start global war. 50 years later, humanity is getting extinct, mainly because of war.

    To prevent what? That is the question.

  2. Michael G.R. says:

    We definitely need to take the risk from NEOs more seriously. That’s why I educated myself a bit about them and wrote some of what I found here:

    Near Earth Objects and Asteroids: Are We Whistling in the Dark?.

    I’m happy that Orbit@Home ( has got some NASA funding. According to the latest update, they’ll starting work next March. It makes a lot of sense to use a vast distributed computing network to try to track as many NEOs as possible, and having the public helping is another good way to spread the word (in the same way that, for example, Folding@Home is teaching lots of people about protein biology).

  3. Michael G.R. says:

    I thought this was important enough, I wrote my own post about it:

    Near Earth Objects: We Can’t Beat the Odds Forever

    I linked here, of course. Thanks for your post, and keep up the good work at LF.

  4. John Boyd says:

    Was TU24 visable from Florida, close to the sun, at 1430 hrs on January 28th?