Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Comet May Have Missed Earth By a Few hundred Kilometers

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the old-news dept.

Earth 265

First time accepted submitter afree87 writes "A re-analysis of historical observations at a Mexican observatory suggests Earth narrowly avoided an extinction event just over a hundred years ago. On August 12th and 13th 1883, an astronomer at a small observatory in Zacatecas in Mexico made an extraordinary observation, some 450 objects, each surrounded by a kind of mist, passing across the face of the Sun. This month, Hector Manterola at the National Autonomous University of Mexico suggests these were fragments of a comet. 'If they had collided with Earth we would have had 3275 Tunguska events in two days, probably an extinction event.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Buckshot: (2)

Hartree (191324) | about 3 years ago | (#37738622)

3275 of em. That's a heck of a shotgun blast.

Re:Buckshot: (2)

sycodon (149926) | about 3 years ago | (#37738740)

3275? Not 3276 or 3274?

Re:Buckshot: (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738884)

He probably works in base 5 himself, and rounded it off to the nice round number 101100 (5), and converted it to decimals for the publication.

Re:Buckshot: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738908)

Funniest Comment of the year for sure.

Re:Buckshot: (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about 3 years ago | (#37738900)

3275? Not 3276 or 3274?

That "missing" one will be hitting in a year or so. :->

Re:Buckshot: (2)

davidbrit2 (775091) | about 3 years ago | (#37738930)

It's been hiding behind the moon, biding its time, and waiting to strike.

Re:Buckshot: (1)

RustyShackleford007 (2485098) | about 3 years ago | (#37739088)

It's been hiding behind the moon, biding its time, and waiting to strike.

Guns don't kill people. Stellar shrapnel does.

Re:Buckshot: (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 3 years ago | (#37739184)

Stellar shrapnel doesn't kill people, mad scientists with comet catching gravitron enhancers kill people.

Re:Buckshot: (1)

almitchell (1237520) | about 3 years ago | (#37739442)

Only if you're Lars von Triers.

Re:Buckshot: (1)

CubicleView (910143) | about 3 years ago | (#37738964)

Doesn't really matter, only relevant if you live in Tunguska anyway.

Re:Buckshot: (1)

sempir (1916194) | about 3 years ago | (#37739196)

3275? Not 3276 or 3274?

And while we are being accurate, 28 years ago is a "bit more" (bitmore is a mathematically accurate number where I live) than "just over" (justover is a vague number) one hundred years ago!

May have missed ? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738632)

May have missed ? I'm fairly certain it definitely missed.

Re:May have missed ? (2)

Lord Lode (1290856) | about 3 years ago | (#37738682)

It may have been that it was a few hundred kilometers close. Or it may not. Depends on how good the re-analysis of this old data was.

Re:May have missed ? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738710)

Often it's helpful to read the entire sentence, rather than just the first half. You should be OK on these sentences though, as I've structured them to accommodate your particular reading disability.

Re:May have missed ? (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 3 years ago | (#37740030)

I think you may have missed the humorous nature of his post. No, on second thoughts, you definitely missed it.

Re:May have missed ? (4, Funny)

niftydude (1745144) | about 3 years ago | (#37738804)

May have missed ? I'm fairly certain it definitely missed.

Nope - it didn't miss. I was the only survivor as I happened to be exploring some very deep natural caverns at the time.

You are all just figments of my imagination.

Re:May have missed ? (5, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37738984)

And Slashdot is the best your imagination can come up with. Come on man.

Re:May have missed ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739416)

I just checked out /b/, and the guy you replied to needs counseling.

Re:May have missed ? (1)

tonique (1176513) | about 3 years ago | (#37738850)

Yeah, it missed, but the interpretation of the picture isn't certain. So there may have or may have not been a clusterfuck comet close by. A comment on the article says it's easy to fail when using that wet colloidal method, producing "ghost images".

Re:May have missed ? (0)

craigminah (1885846) | about 3 years ago | (#37738944)

How can you be FAIRLY certain it DEFINATELY missed? Kind of a weird mix of certainty and uncertainty, you are either certain it missed or you are uncertain it missed.

Re:May have missed ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739066)

Whoosh.

A little too early (4, Funny)

SpelledBackwards (587772) | about 3 years ago | (#37738648)

And likely just a *little* too early to blame Nikola Tesla... if we would have had any conspiracy theorists left.

Re:A little too early (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | about 3 years ago | (#37738676)

This is Niola "Bleeping" Tesla we are talking about. Of course he is responsible. After doing some mathematical calculations he realized that something destroyed and threw these off course a hundred years ago. So he used his experimental time machine to go back and do it himself to be certain it was done.

Re:A little too early (1)

RustyShackleford007 (2485098) | about 3 years ago | (#37738948)

Conspiracy theory keeps the world turning.

Re:A little too early (1)

MountainMan101 (714389) | about 3 years ago | (#37739460)

That's what they want you to think.

Tesla?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739052)

I'm waiting to hear how it's global warming or W's fault - at least pin it on the europeans coming to north america if your lack of appreciation for diversity artificially imposes temporal limits on you understanding of causation...

take the spin out of it & what are you left with? SCIENCE?!?

Re:Tesla?!? (1)

Intron (870560) | about 3 years ago | (#37739396)

I'm waiting to hear how it's global warming or W's fault - at least pin it on the europeans coming to north america if your lack of appreciation for diversity artificially imposes temporal limits on you understanding of causation...

take the spin out of it & what are you left with? SCIENCE?!?

I'm waiting to hear from the fiscal conservatives who want to cancel the space program and asteroid-hunting programs because the Federal Government shouldn't be spending taxpayer money on such useless endeavors.

*shiver* (1)

mikeru22 (1222780) | about 3 years ago | (#37738686)

Sometimes I think it best not to think about these things...

If you were the President and you knew about this impending doom, would you decide to alert your country?

Re:*shiver* (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about 3 years ago | (#37738860)

No, just Bruce Willis.

Re:*shiver* (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about 3 years ago | (#37738862)

>best not to think of these things

What an idiotic thing to say. Yes, there are people who think about these things and they try to come up with practical solutions. Yeah, let's not think about this. Someone might come up with a way of diverting certain death some day.

>keeping a comet secret in this day and age.

Good luck with that.

There are thousands of amateur astronomers across just the US alone and we've got the internet and everyone would know within hours of discovery anyway.

--
BMO

Re:*shiver* (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37739028)

Or the guy who does come up with the practical solution will get shot by the raging mob, as his solution seems to not believe in the wrath of God, so therefore he must be working for the devil and should be killed on the spot to get into Gods good graces. I would just post a message on a Tweeter Account about a 1 minute before it is due. Because no one follows me. Ill be on record, but wouldn't cause an sturr.

Re:*shiver* (3, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37739380)

Let's go burn down the observatory so this will never happen again!

Re:*shiver* (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about 3 years ago | (#37739038)

See dictionary for definition of "humor."

Re:*shiver* (1)

mikeru22 (1222780) | about 3 years ago | (#37739212)

What a great way to take my comment out of context and create a generalization. SOMETIMES it's best not to think about these things (emotionally). Clearly you tactlessly disagree. Are you helping to keep track of every particle out there?! What kind of practical solution have you offered? Scientifically, sure, stare at the sky all you want. I'm glad to know there are people out there that are happy to do so.

everyone would know within hours of discovery

Except in this case where it's been just over a hundred years...

Re:*shiver* (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 3 years ago | (#37739508)

There are thousands of amateur astronomers across just the US alone and we've got the internet and everyone would know within hours of discovery anyway.

It's not that easy. The speeds and sizes involved typically mean you don't know it's coming till it smacks you in the face.

--
BMO

Guy, this isn't the Post. You don't need to sign, it's right up top in the "headers" - just like it would be with email or on usenet, or on a forum, or anywhere else that's not a letter.

Re:*shiver* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739838)

Someone might come up with a way of diverting certain death some day

Who cares about rocks from space? Humanity will kill itself long before one hits. Greed, egoism, ideology and faith will see to that.

Re:*shiver* (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738966)

Hahahaha yes of course I would. But I first would declare an immediate tax moratorium, the cancellation of all debts owed to the state, the freeing of all prisoners not held for violent crimes and a monthly stipend of $20k for each citizen.

Then on the very next evening I'd be on TV, all serious-like in a pre-recorded message: "And now, fellow citizens, we move on to the not-so-good news".\

Epic troll.

Re:*shiver* (1)

antido (1825442) | about 3 years ago | (#37739516)

You probably don't want to read up on the Andromeda galaxy and earth's trajectory then ;)

Re:*shiver* (1)

mikeru22 (1222780) | about 3 years ago | (#37739674)

haha, well now I will...

Looking at the sun with a telescope (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738690)

The observer was looking at the sun through a telescope! No wonder he is seeing spots.

Definite conjecture (0)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 3 years ago | (#37738700)

You don't look at the sun directly through a telescope so I assume then that we're talking about a large number of shadows crossing a projection.

Strikes me that there are a lot of possible interpretations.

Re:Definite conjecture (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 3 years ago | (#37738872)

Huh? You use a sun filter and you can definitely look at the Sun with a telescope.

Re:Definite conjecture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739014)

Bet it was a bunch of birds.

Re:Definite conjecture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739370)

Incorporeal ring-wraiths

Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738712)

How Slashdotters approach all scientific articles:

1. Abounding skepticism.
2. Criticism of scientist's findings and methods used.
3. Explanation of failed logic.
4. Loss of all wonder and awe and appreciation at whatever findings remain.
5 Cynicism and dejection at failure of science.
6. Continued existence of misery and woe and greater skepticism.

My tongue is jammed up against my cheek; otherwise, I'd say more. God bless.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (1)

AdamJS (2466928) | about 3 years ago | (#37738844)

You forgot 7. Rationalization of the positive outcome of the event via the assumption of superpowered, superscience or extra-terrestrial interference.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (1)

PerfectionLost (1004287) | about 3 years ago | (#37739050)

And you forgot:

8. Yelled at Ma to get them some meatloaf.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0, Flamebait)

bryan1945 (301828) | about 3 years ago | (#37738938)

So how does the Wondrous AC approach scientific articles?

Gives me an idea for why there are AC's now:
1) Troll with no balls
2) Talk big, still no balls
3) Purposely stupid, no balls
4) Did it so they can wank to responses (yes, I'm guilty of facilitation)
5) Completely clueless, spouts off random nonsense. May have balls, but can't find them.

6) The actual use for AC- reporting something. Big balls.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739114)

Bryan with a y is gay and would get along perfectly with bmo because of your obsession with balls.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739382)

You forgot 7) The desire to not lose karma points because you have a comment that can easily be misinterpreted by speed-reading or biased moderators.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739044)

Let me fix this for you: replace "Slashdot comments" with "scientific", and replace "Slashdotters" with "scientists". Thankfully skepticism, criticism, and loss of wonder and awe is the way of scientific method and thought. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739092)

Yes, well science is all about scepticism and critique -- that's how things work and how we get to the truth.

If we didn't do that, science, technology, medicine would never have progressed beyond flat earth, Caxton's press and blood letting.

Glad you were joking; the atheist in me would have to deride religion really being against the scientific method and the quest to establish the truth! : )

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (2, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 3 years ago | (#37739108)

How Slashdotters approach all scientific articles:

1. Abounding skepticism.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Being extraordinarily skeptical isn't a bad thing, and is part of the scientific method. It IS a good thing.

Extraordinary claims without skepticism isn't science, it is religion.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (3, Insightful)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 3 years ago | (#37739474)

Most Slashdot reactions are not skepticism, they are knee-jerk reactions over information that challenges their vision of things. Actual skepticism would involve attempting to verify claims as opposed to dismissing them outright.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739590)

no you miss the point. You in fact have confused being extraordinarily skeptical with being a cynical douche bag know it all. It is not part of the scientific method for non-experts to quibble about obvious and trivial considerations without reading the published science and the prior peer reviewed published science. None of this skeptical pseudo-scientific slashdot skepticism is ever worth a second glance. 95% of your 'extraordinary skepticism' stems from accepting some middleman's non-scientific interpretation of scientific work or a complete lack of understanding of relevant knowledge. As an expert in one field often up for discussion, I have never seen any legitimate criticism offered by slashdot's extraordinarily skeptical audience. On the other hand, I have seen experts dismiss the obvious and trivial 'concerns' of slashdot pseudoexperts only to be drowned out with more nonsense.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (1)

genner (694963) | about 3 years ago | (#37740078)

How Slashdotters approach all scientific articles:

1. Abounding skepticism.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Being extraordinarily skeptical isn't a bad thing, and is part of the scientific method. It IS a good thing.

Extraordinary claims without skepticism isn't science, it is religion.

Which is all well and good as soon as everyone can agree on what is and is not extraordinary.

How Do You Classify Mine? (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 3 years ago | (#37739178)

What about the comments where I link to the original paper [couk.com] and its machine translation?

"STEP ON THE SOLAR DISK OF A SWARM OF OBSERVED corpuscle
Observatory in Zacatecas (MEXICO). "

"By Jose Tree and Bonilla (Director of the Observatory of Zacatecas, Mexico).

"I have the habit at the observatory in Zacatecas, located at two thousand 502
meters above sea level, daily observation of the surface state
solar drawing, via direct and projection, stains and grains, as
also the protuberances of the solar chromosphere, to borrow to do the
spectroscope.

To this end, I adapted the equatorial opening 0.16 m, a device
projection it receives on a sheet of paper a picture of Sun 0250 m
diameter, because the field of the lens does not project more than its surface
0260 m and is unclear. When the solar disk offers some interest took
photographs of 0067 m in diameter, through snapshots plates
Gelatin silver.

The dome of the Observatory has small windows and thick black curtains,
so that does not penetrate through the lens nothing but the image of the sun
His ever noticed provision allows, with precision and clarity, faculae
and the smallest details of sunspots and granulations, thanks to the
transparency of the atmosphere and the height to which it is located the
Observatory, under a tropical sky (22 ° 46 '34 "north latitude 9).

On August 12, 1883, at 08:00 am, I began to draw
spots when suddenly I perceived a small body of light that penetrated
the field of the lens, drawing on paper that I used to play
spots, and walk through the solar disk projecting a shadow almost circular.

He had not yet left my surprise when the same phenomenon was repeated again
and this is often such that two hours could count up to 283 bodies
across the solar disk.

Slowly, the clouds hampered the observation could not restart until
the time of passage of the sun across the meridian and only 40 minutes, during which
were counted again within another 48 bodies. The paths followed by these
bodies indicate a direct displacement from west to east, more or less inclined
north or south of the solar disk. In a few minutes of observation I noticed that these
bodies that looked black and gloomy, a perfectly round and more or
less elongated-, when projected on the solar disk offered bright images
leaving the edges and across the fields of the lens.

Intervals were variable steps, both passed a body or two-no
using more than one third, half a second, or a second maximum to cross
disk, and a minute or two passed before there others as well
spent 15 or 20 at a time, so it was difficult to count. I could fix the
history of many of these bodies on the solar disk, marking its entry
and outputs in the paper that I used to draw the traces, that role, as
equatorial lens followed, by a system clock, the movement
Sun's apparent diurnal on the sky. Figure 118 is a reduced copy
the drawing I made that day the solar disc (250 mm in diameter) with
trajectory of the bodies and sunspots.

Often taking pictures of the Sun, when your hard smudged and
faculae remarkable, I put in a position to photograph just the rare and
interesting phenomenon of these bodies pass through the solar disk.

For this reason, I replaced in the same equatorial target by another 0.16 m
of equal intensity, but chemical source (suitable for photographic work),
I adapted to the eyepiece and the camera. After several trials to
correctly approach these bodies, I managed to take some pictures, of which I
chosen what I consider more interesting to send to the journal Astronomy '.
While these photographs I took an assistant counted the bodies in the 'search'
the equator. The photograph was taken wet collodion 1 / 100 of a second.
This rate did not give me time to filter and properly preparing the bathrooms:
negative is also a thinly veiled by the developer. The image of the sun is not
in focus, but the bodies, which at that time offered me interest.

Although the projection and sight, all the bodies appeared round or
, it was noted in the various photographs that this is not true and that the
Most have irregular shapes.

He said that in the projection field of the lens, the bodies appeared to
bright and gave off a bright path, but through the hard
Solar seemed opaque. Looking closely at the photograph and negative, is
as a body surrounded by a nebula and a dark trail in the field of
the lens and outside the disc, there are bright. This would make me believe that the
the passage of bright trails across the disk body absorb the light
Sun actinic or decrease its power photogenic.

In the afternoon the clouds prevented me from all observation. I then took certain measures
and established a monitoring plan in case the phenomenon is reproduced daily
the next.

On August 13, the sky was overcast until eight hours of the morning, then
the clouds cleared a bit and was able to comment. Soon the phenomenon
was presented again, and within 45 minutes of observation that allowed us to
state of the sky, we have 116 bodies crossing the solar disk.

Immediately after the observation on day 12, had telegraphed to the
observatories of Mexico and Puebla to ask them to observe these phenomena,
but were invisible to them. In order to verify in a
indirectly the approximate distance it was in this swarm of bodies,
carefully prepared the form of the lens, the lens equator and a mirror
Foucault plated 0.10 m in diameter and it went over the solar disk and
bodies, moreover, in the night I had occasion to address this system also
to the planets and the moon, which had been in the first quarter during the
past two days. Without changing the focus of the system, but the moon was observed
clearly.

This, coupled with the invisibility of the phenomenon in Mexico and Puebla
or elsewhere, makes me think that these bodies were close to the
Earth, closer than the Moon, and that his motive was considerable parallax
to Mexico and Puebla were ejected from the solar disk. "

I also have many questions. One is that if it were high-flying birds, what would explain the dust surrounding the objects and non-regular density? If it were dust or insects how could it last for multiple days?

Also, if it lasted multiple days, wouldn't there have been more objects during the night? Any attempts by Bonilla to contrast them against the moon?

Lastly, there were hundreds of these photographs taken [wikipedia.org] . Does anyone have a link to a repository of them all? If several are in sequential order of the same rigid objects, there are computer vision tricks that can be applied to several photographs in order to glean more features and reduce noise in the object's shape.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37739236)

7. "I saw that in Nature or arvix or Science six days ago WTF"
8. "slashdot dupe see yesterday"
9. "Can anyone figure out what the journalist means, or unfilter the journalist stuff to figure out what the subject meant?"
10. "The journalist claims this is new, here is a wikipedia article about the same having been done five times over the past thirty years"
11. Can a work a goatse joke into this somehow? or 1. 2. 3. 4. profit? or In soviet russia, the skepticism abounds you

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739628)

But it's a "once in a lifetime event" on a "special time and day". It's "new and improved". Marketing has made us all cynical about anyone claiming anything. Is it infotainmaint? An advertorial? What's the angle?

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739900)

My tongue is jammed up against my cheek; otherwise, I'd say more. God bless.

You don't have a tongue failbot - tell Taco to come back, he forgot to shut off -v on your task.

Re:Typical Slashdot comments pattern to follow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739946)

Rounding it out....

0. First post!

How Slashdotters approach all scientific articles:

1. Abounding skepticism.
2. Criticism of scientist's findings and methods used.
3. Explanation of failed logic.
4. Loss of all wonder and awe and appreciation at whatever findings remain.
5 Cynicism and dejection at failure of science.
6. Continued existence of misery and woe and greater skepticism.

My tongue is jammed up against my cheek; otherwise, I'd say more. God bless.

7. Hey stupid moderator, didn't you see that this iarticle is a dup?
8. Why did the moderator let this over-hyped article about vapor-tech?
9. CowboyNeal option (insert scientology/truther/alien/genesis conspiracy theory here)

Alien invasion... (0)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 3 years ago | (#37738748)

The objects could have been an alien invasion force- but they passed us by when they realised we hadn't even invented the iPhone yet.

Re:Alien invasion... (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 years ago | (#37739218)

And now they're back buying up all 4 million of them this weekend. We're in trouble!

If you want to be taken seriously (4, Funny)

actionbastard (1206160) | about 3 years ago | (#37738814)

As a scientist, don't author your paper [arxiv.org] with the font set to Comic Sans.

Re:If you want to be taken seriously (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738870)

It's Mexico. Things are a little more relaxed here. We go home for a few hours for lunch and a nap every day. Why bother with rigid font rules? Professionalism doesn't depend on what font you use, but the content of your paper and how expertly it's put together.

Re:If you want to be taken seriously (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 3 years ago | (#37738880)

At least not if you want others to even read it. My eyes hurt.

Mexicans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37738928)

Re:If you want to be taken seriously (1)

martas (1439879) | about 3 years ago | (#37738992)

How did we let something like this happen? Makes me wish those comets had been on target...

Re:If you want to be taken seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739142)

Holy crap! Comic Sans - I didn't believe this until I saw it. No, really, Comic Sans is absolutely not what one should compose anything in, once you have reached puberty. http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/im-comic-sans-asshole [mcsweeneys.net]

Re:If you want to be taken seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739144)

good heavens!

To Hector, Maria & Guadalupe: That's supposed to be a scientific paper you put together, not a comic book!

Re:If you want to be taken seriously (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739162)

Maybe he was looking for *Comet* Sans

(sorry)

Extinction level? (3, Informative)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 3 years ago | (#37738840)

It would probably have been calamitous but extinction level, maybe not. I mean most of those would probably have landed in the ocean anyway, with maybe a thousand or so dropping on land. The Tunguska event didn't raise too much atmospheric dust or cause much occlusion, and at around 10 megatons might have released in total ten gigatons or so, which is what, twice the total world nuclear arsenal except without fallout.

Apocalypse territory? Certainly. Extinction? Probably not.

Re:Extinction level? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739134)

Have you even considered what would have happened just from 1000 large fragments hitting only the ocean would do? How long before any survivors would even see the sun through the clouds, along with flooding & temperature changes.

Re:Extinction level? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 3 years ago | (#37739466)

Oh yeah I mean we'd have been looking at an ice age, most likely, but we survived the last ice age pretty well.

Re:Extinction level? (4, Interesting)

dachshund (300733) | about 3 years ago | (#37739458)

It would probably have been calamitous but extinction level, maybe not. I mean most of those would probably have landed in the ocean anyway, with maybe a thousand or so dropping on land.

My understanding is that a major asteroid strike on the ocean could be catastrophic due to ozone depletion.* It's just a theory (because obviously we haven't tested it), but if true it would indicate that asteroid strikes are a bad thing no matter where they hit.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-10-asteroid-ocean-deplete-ozone-layer.html [physorg.com]

* This depends on a single very large asteroid, so a bunch of smaller ones might not be as much of an issue. Unless they're fast moving.

Re:Extinction level? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739558)

OP: remember that Tunguska broke up over the surface of the earth and did NOT hit the surface with full mass. If it had, it probably would have been a mass extinction event.

Re:Extinction level? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37739632)

So the Apocalypse isn't an extinction-level event?

Re:Extinction level? (1)

rmdyer (267137) | about 3 years ago | (#37739634)

Intrepid imaginaut says "...except without fallout."

No, certainly no fallout from all the nuclear sites around the world being smashed and broken into little bits. Certainly not.

Re:Extinction level? (1)

Erich (151) | about 3 years ago | (#37740050)

Smashing all the nuclear sites around the world in the 1880s would not be very disastrous.

what if stuff: (1)

flak89 (809703) | about 3 years ago | (#37738846)

cool story bro

S.M. Stirlsing;'s Peshawar Lancers (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | about 3 years ago | (#37738848)

Long-term implications (4, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37738940)

While we know that in practice actual asteroid and comet strikes on Earth are very rare, this sort of thing helps illustrate how we need to do a good job tracking the larger threats and preparing to deflect them if necessary. The good news is that the WISE mission http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide-field_Infrared_Survey_Explorer [wikipedia.org] has successfully tracked most of the large asteroids that have near-Earth orbits and none of them are threats in the immediate future. There are however other dangers. For example, comets that are no longer outgassing could potentially have very elliptical orbits that would not be detected by WISE. Also, there may be smaller asteroids that WISE has not detected that could make a life pretty unpleasant in a more narrow area even if they don't lead to an extinction event. An asteroid that was around a thousand feet across (300 meters) could devastate a city and could easily escape detection from WISE. Moreover, there are some real worst case scenarios. If such an asteroid landed in either Pakistan or India for example they might think that the other had launched a nuclear weapon at them.

In general, we aren't doing enough to deal with potential existential risks. At this point, we don't know if the Great Filter is in front or behind us. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter [wikipedia.org] . The basic idea of the Great Filter is that the easiest explanation of the Fermi Paradox is that there's some set of events that make life unlikely to reach the interstellar level. That could be behind us, if for example life arising is unlikely or multicellular life arising is unlikely. But at least some filtration has to be in front of us. It seems that natural events (like asteroid strikes) are not common enough to be the entire filter. But there are other potential filtration events. Learning more about these issues not only helps preserve humanity it also helps get insight into why we seem to be alone. Unfortunately, funding for these sorts of things is tiny. The WISE mission for example was only $320 million and was used not just for the asteroid work but a lot of other good astronomy for objects both inside our solar system and more distant objects. This is a tiny cost compared to what is spent on non-science issues, and is particularly tiny when one considers it as being paid for almost exclusively by a single country.

Re:Long-term implications (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37739338)

At this point, we don't know if the Great Filter is in front or behind us

I thought the "great filter" was a lot of handwaving to explain away rather unique features required for an "advanced" civilization that can't be remotely detected:

1) Magnetosphere to keep water vapor in the long term and reduce cosmic rays in the short term.

2) Continental arrangement that gives enough ice age action to encourage evolution competition but not completely wipe out lifeforms and once civilization gets rolling to keep temps and sea levels constant for an unusually long geologic time

3) A nice sized moon to visit or otherwise F with or at least encourage astronomical study.

4) Planet thats a little smaller doesn't have the heavy metals and resources for high tech culture (even just plain ole surface area) and planet thats just a little bigger is virtually impossible for crude chemical rockets to lift off and launch satellites.

You can't see any of this stuff remotely, at this time. It "seems likely" to be pretty rare. If you think it isn't rare, then you need the "great filter" hypothesis to explain why we aren't overrun with little green men.

Re:Long-term implications (2)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37739434)

All of that is filtration events that are behind us. But there is potential filtration events in front of us. Asteroids and supernovae are natural examples. Similarly, there are possible events that could occur due to humans. Nuclear war is one example. It may well be that civilizations manage to eliminate themselves before they get advanced enough to spread around. There may be even nastier technologies that we haven't discovered yet. If there are any major filtration events that lie ahead of us, then they need to be very soon in our future. I suspect that most of the filtration in the past, but I'm not sure. One particularly concerning issue is that filtration events in the future don't need to be events that lead to full-out extinction. We've used most of the easily accessible oil and a fair bit of the easily accessible coal, and those resources were necessary to get to our current tech level. If some event sends our tech level back a few thousand years (or possibly even only a few hundred) it may well be that we won't have the resources necessary to return to a technologically advanced situation.

Re:Long-term implications (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | about 3 years ago | (#37739778)

Actually, even small comet at very high speeds, like .1 fraction of light speed (relative to Earth), will probably destroy life here one day, without possibility to react in any way. We will possibly detect only hours in advance that end is near...

Re:Long-term implications (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37739866)

Extremely high speed objects are something that we would have a lot of trouble reacting to. But comets come from the outskirts of our solar system. They can't get nearly that high. In general, very large objects don't travel that fast. The galactic rotation speed is much slower than .1c. Moreover, if any such impacts occurred at any time on any of the rocky planets or moons we would have noticed it. If any such object had collided with any of the gas giants in the last few thousand years we'd be able to see a record of it. Overall, I'm not terribly worried about that option. There are however, more disturbing similar threats that would be nearly impossible to deal with and would be nearly impossible to detect until it is too late. The two most obvious ones are rogue planets and brown dwarfs which if they decided to travel near the solar system could throw the Earth out of orbit. Similar remarks apply to passing black holes.

Extraordinary claims req. extraordinary evidence (1)

wisebabo (638845) | about 3 years ago | (#37738974)

While it is not impossible that an extinction level event almost happened, I'd like to see a bit more evidence before panicking.

If this comet was so close, so much so that no other observatory on earth was able to see it due to "parallax", how come not one of the 450 or so pieces impacted the earth? (There are no reports of Tunguska sized impacts).

Also, wouldn't it be relatively easy to figure out where this thing was headed and find out where it is now? Unless it was a (very) long period comet or ended up in the sun, we should be able to track it down. In fact, if it exists, shouldn't it be easy to find as it will likely have an orbit that repeatedly intersects earth's orbit? (Ulp!)

Re:Extraordinary claims req. extraordinary evidenc (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 years ago | (#37739174)

While it is not impossible that an extinction level event almost happened, I'd like to see a bit more evidence before panicking.

Why would you bother panicking in any case?

Sure, if it might happen in the next couple years, might be worth some panic. Last year's near miss? Not even worth a "whew, we dodged that bullet!"....

Note also that it's unlikely that there will EVER be more evidence. This was a sighting from one observatory over 100 years ago. It's moderately unlikely that anyone else noticed it at the time, and even more unlikely that we'll ever find any of these rocks and positively identify them as part of that swarm (after all, if they passed within a few hundred miles of Earth, the entire swarm would've been scattered upon departure).

Re:Extraordinary claims req. extraordinary evidenc (2)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37739446)

In fact, if it exists, shouldn't it be easy to find as it will likely have an orbit that repeatedly intersects earth's orbit?

Only if its in the same inclination as the earth relative to the sun. Classic orbital mechanics mistake... just because two things are up there (lets say, ISS and HST) doesn't mean they'll ever come really close to each other.

Gravitational slingshot might mean the orbit has been permanently changed. On a long enough scale, from the perspective of small enough objects, there are no non-chaotic orbits. There are Lagrangian points and there is no reason for long term stability there (even the most stable ones can get swept clean by some orbiting "whatever" that passes near enough or thru the L point).

I call BS. (0)

DarthVain (724186) | about 3 years ago | (#37739008)

A) Um ya. I am sure some observation were all that accurate over 100 years ago. Not to mention the re-interpretation of that data.
B) Statistically if earth was commonly hit by 3275 Tunguska hits every 100 years, believe me, we would know about it.
C) The Aztecs MAY HAVE had contact with Aliens, and been involved in a deadly hunt involving space faring Predators, however I doubt it.

Classic BS fear science (if you can even regard it as science) for sensationalism and attention.

Re:I call BS. (3, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | about 3 years ago | (#37739426)

"I was almost hit by a car yesterday"
"Statistically, there's no way you would still be alive if you were hit by a car every single day. What a lair!"

Gravity (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 3 years ago | (#37739278)

Seems like the fragments would have been close enough to be affected by Earth's gravity possibly pulling them in closer if they made a return trip. I wonder where they are now.

Re:Gravity (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | about 3 years ago | (#37739422)

Seems like the fragments would have been close enough to be affected by Earth's gravity possibly pulling them in closer if they made a return trip. I wonder where they are now.

Here, posting as anonymous cowards.

Oh well (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#37739534)

Dammit!

Well, back to the drawing board.

Shit!

Lucifer's Hammer (1)

jacobsm (661831) | about 3 years ago | (#37740004)

Hammerfall!!!

To bad it didn't (1)

koan (80826) | about 3 years ago | (#37740036)

Extinction is coming anyway you look at it, more likely would have been a significant reduction in human population moving them back on the tech line (to the cave even?) but then we wouldn't be where we are now.

That would be something to watch from orbit though.

They were not comets. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 years ago | (#37740076)

These were simply the spaceships coming to pick the Heavens Gate people. It just came about 150 years too early. That is all.

Link with comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is nonsense (1)

Dr La (1342733) | about 3 years ago | (#37740154)

The authors propose a link in their paper to fragments of comet 12P/Pons-Brooks.

This is nonsense however, as pointed out here: http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2011/10/ot-1883-zacatecas-observation-of.html [blogspot.com]

The earth has its closest approach to the 12P/Pons-Brooks orbit near December 6th, not August 12th (see diagrams in the link above). Hence, fragments of the latter cannot pass close to earth mid-august (and they do not come even particularly close on 6 December, as the minimal earth to comet orbit distance is still 0.2 AU, i.e. the comet passes closer to the orbit of Venus than to the orbit of Earth).

The whole story has very little substantial fact behind it, and factual errors such as pointed out above do not promote confidence.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?