NEO Encounter April 28, 2020

   In 1979, Skylab – America’s first space station – was falling out of orbit and my sister called me – her space nerd brother – to worry about this thing that she feared would fall on her new baby.  I tried to explain that the Earth is so big and the Skylab so small (relatively speaking) that the chances were nil that any person on Earth would be anywhere near where it fell. 

I went on to point out that there are natural meteorites that fall to Earth constantly and they could amount to the equivalent of thousands of Skylabs every year.  She never worried about those!

After that, she was not just worried – more like terrified!

I have since learned to advise people that they are more likely to be hit by a train, bitten by a shark and struck by lightning – all at the same time – than to be struck by anything falling from the sky.  There is exactly one case of a person being hit by a meteorite.  The lady was badly bruised, but not fatally.

I told you that to blunt the effect of telling you the following:

Another Near Earth Object passed by the Earth on April 28th, 2020.  I have checked a couple of reliable sources and I can tell you that the nearest it came was about 29 thousand miles.  And that sounds like a lot, since the earth itself is only about 8000 miles in diameter,

However, the NEO does come into our “territory” since we have satellites orbiting the Earth.  You might think that satellites are only hundreds of miles above the Earth and that is where you are mistaken.  I decided that those little diagrams with circles and arrows are insufficient for this one.  Please see the diagram in Figure 1 for details.

As you see, the NEO this week is close enough to be of definite interest.  However, it passed to the South of Earth – nowhere near the “belt” of geosynchronous satellites over the equator and over twice as far as the “cloud” of GPS satellites.  And, of course nowhere near the Space Station.

The asteroid is about 60 feet across. Satellites are flimsy aluminum gadgets and would crumble before the NEO. But Space is big and satellites are small.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/skylab

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