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Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated?

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the this-is-glue.-strong-stuff. dept.

Space 74

sciencehabit writes: Planetary scientists have found an asteroid spinning too fast for its own good. The object, known as 1950 DA, whips around every 2.1 hours, which means that rocks on its surface should fly off into space. What's keeping the remaining small rocks and dust on the surface? The researchers suggest van der Waals forces, weak forces caused by the attraction of polar molecules, which have slightly different charges on different sides of the molecule. For example, water molecules exhibit surface tension because of van der Waals forces, because the negative charge of one water molecule's oxygen atom is attracted to nearby water molecules' hydrogen atoms, which have a positive charge at their surfaces. Similar attractions could be occurring between molecules on the surfaces of different pieces of dust and rock. Such forces would be comparable to those that caused lunar dust to stick to astronauts' space suits.

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No Disintegrations (5, Funny)

jimmifett (2434568) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665129)

Give me a nuke, Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, and Sad Batman, and I'll make sure that asteroid is good and proper disintegrated!

Re:No Disintegrations (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665347)

You forgot Michael Clarke Duncan

Re:No Disintegrations (1)

jimmifett (2434568) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665531)

He sadly passed away :(

That's no asteroid... (4, Funny)

ulatekh (775985) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665131)

...that's a space station!

Mystery solved.

Re:That's no asteroid... (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665309)

It's too big to be a space station!

Re:That's no asteroid... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665361)

Hey! It's a science article, let's make stupid jokes from a b-film that's over 30 years old!!!
 
HERP!!!!

Re:That's no asteroid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666551)

Hey! I'm an insecure internet douchenozzle that only finds joy in life by making others feel bad. Because the internet is practically anonymous, I can do this all day and never have to face the consequences of my actions!

HERP!!!!

Perhaps some giant space creature... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665379)

Perhaps some giant space creature consumed plenty of fiber...

Re:That's no asteroid... (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665419)

The correct answer is that Marvin the Martian lost his lludium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator, and wasn't able to blow it up.

RAMA (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665165)

Not an asteroid....

Why can't it just be one mass? (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665185)

The article doesn't explain why the idea of this particular body being one mass instead of a rubble pile has been dismissed. Is there a good one?

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (2)

Matheus (586080) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665263)

...or the possibility that the core is some ultra dense material making all those fancy gravity equations balance out! ...or because that's how the aliens who sent it want it to behave!!

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

onepoint (301486) | about a month and a half ago | (#47668233)

That thought was the very first thing that crossed my mind.
I mean the only super dense stuff that I've read about is ultra-dense deuterium
( It's in the range of 100+ tons/ cm3 ) but it's only produced in really small quantities

I would really enjoy knowing if something ultra dense is produced, and how does it effect gravity. I think that would be a fun project

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

GNious (953874) | about a month and a half ago | (#47668965)

The core is pure eezo, and this has caused a mass-effect field to form, significantly increasing the mass of the asteroid...

What?

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665461)

Yea the article dismisses out of hand what seems like the simplest answer, that they're solid chunks of rock or metal.

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666293)

Or that they're frozen on or otherwise stuck. Stuff sitting on a table, shelf, or floor gets stuck there by other crud.

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665625)

Results of a new study (Busch et al.) combining the 2001 Goldstone and Arecibo radar data with optical lightcurves are presented in the journal Icarus. Shape, spin state and surface structure of 1950 DA are estimated. New observations intended to resolve the prograde/retrograde spin issue were inconclusive, therefore two distinct shape models are presented. One rotates in a prograde sense and is roughly spheroidal with a mean diameter of 1.16 +/- 0.12 km. The other rotates in a retrograde sense, is oblate, and about 30% larger. Both models suggest a nickel-iron or enstatite chondritic composition. [nasa.gov]

So, since it has been established that the asteroid in question is pretty much a chunk of metal, and the rate of rotation would be fast enough to dislodge independent pieces of material, the obvious answer is "the rubble already flew off, this is a big hunk of nickel-iron." After doing that bit of research, I don't care what is in the summary or the article behind this story, they'd better show up with a good argument that this piece of metal has any rubble clinging to it before I will waste the effort considering other explanations.

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666669)

1.3km of maybe solid iron and nickel? Send a goddamn spaceship to it and bring it to a foundry!

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

Lotana (842533) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667123)

Not worth it. It is so expensive with the current technology that it would be cheaper and easier to refine similar amount here on Earth

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

Soralin (2437154) | about a month and a half ago | (#47668865)

a 1.3km sphere of iron would mass over 9 billion tons, nickel would be even heavier. It would be easier to bring the foundry to it, rather than the other way around.

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47669241)

Ok, let's do this then!

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (2)

radtea (464814) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667651)

The article doesn't explain why the idea of this particular body being one mass instead of a rubble pile has been dismissed. Is there a good one?

Asteroids are believed to be aggregations of relatively loosely bound matter. They have likely experienced some local melting due to collisions, but it is very unlikely that they ever were entirely melted into a single mass. As such, they are quite peculiar bodies, much less akin to a mountain than a pile of rubble, and they likely aren't even all that close to a pile of rubble because the individual components they are made from were never part of a larger, more coherent body.

If you think about asteroid formation, you have to start with dust that accretes into small pellets, which then collide to form semi-melted rock-like-things, which then clump into asteroids (all the while suffering more collisions which produce local melting but not whole-body melting of the kind planets experienced.) This is all a consequence of the collisional statistics and dynamics in the early solar system.

So the proposition "Asteroids are loosely bound" is pretty plausible, and ones with high spin are therefore interesting because require us to revisit that plausibility, and who wouldn't want to do that?

Re:Why can't it just be one mass? (1)

cusco (717999) | about a month and a half ago | (#47670877)

Some Asteroids are believed to be aggregations of relatively loosely bound matter.

FTFY. Some asteroids are differentiated masses that were clearly molten at some point in their history. Some are fragments of larger bodies that were broken up.

Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bonds (3, Interesting)

sillybilly (668960) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665223)

What's keeping a piece of rock that used to be molten lava together? Crystalline ionic attractive forces. Van der Waals forces would not be strong enough to keep such an asteroid together, and that's proof that the whole thing flew off as one piece from some supernova explosion. Maybe that's the idea of catching these asteroids with spacecraft - see what stuff looks like coming straight out of a supernova, as opposed to stuff that has been impact pounded into the Moon's surface, or glowing-hot shooting star thermally remelted on the Earth's surface. The stuff that lands on Earth is mostly remnants of shooting stars that did not completely combust, but there might be some meteorite rocks that were traveling with speed close to that of Earth on rendezvous, and only attained terminal velocity in the atmosphere that's not fast enough to melt them. So some meteorites that land on the Earth could be very similar to a captured asteroid out there, and a lot cheaper. Another aspect of capturing an asteroid is practice: for when we have to capture stuff in space to build space stations out of them. Space is very very empty, huge distances of vacuum with very little stuff sprinkled here and there. Any stuff, any matter, is worth gold in outer space, especially away from a gravity well like Earth or Jupiter, but the Moon is better.

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665407)

the whole thing flew off as one piece from some supernova explosion

I didn't read TFA but is it's in the elliptic plane, cruising along in the same general direction as everything, it originated in this solar system.

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665803)

the whole thing flew off as one piece from some supernova explosion

I didn't read TFA but is it's in the elliptic plane, cruising along in the same general direction as everything, it originated in this solar system.

Holy shit! Sun used to be hardcore!

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665813)

the whole thing flew off as one piece from some supernova explosion

I didn't read TFA but is it's in the elliptic plane, cruising along in the same general direction as everything, it originated in this solar system.

Presumably, you meant the ecliptic [wikipedia.org] not the elliptic plane [wolfram.com] .

That said, you are likely correct that the asteroid formed via accretion in the protoplanetary disk [wikipedia.org] , rather than being ejected from a supernova [arxiv.org] .

Regardless, it's quite an interesting conundrum. I suppose it's possible that high-energy collisions melted the material which would become the asteroid and it coalesced into solid chunk(s) which are unaffected by the high rotation rate.

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666307)

Presumably, you meant the ecliptic

No. From reference.com:

elliptic. 1. pertaining to or having the form of an ellipse.

YEEHAWWW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666573)

Double down on the derp, Cowboy!

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666939)

Presumably, you meant the ecliptic

No. From reference.com:

elliptic. 1. pertaining to or having the form of an ellipse.

You're still not correct, but I should have said "plane of the ecliptic," (or "ecliptic plane") rather than just "ecliptic." My apologies for any confusion. However, "elliptic plane" refers to any planar ellipsoid surface, while "plane of the ecliptic" specifically refers to the region in which the sun and the vast majority of other matter in our solar system resides.

That region is a three-dimensional ellipsoid (an example of a planar surface in the shape of an ellipse), is correctly referred to as the "plane of the ecliptic" [universetoday.com] or the "ecliptic plane" not the "elliptic plane."

I'm sorry I got your panties in a bunch, but you were incorrect. Call me an Astronomy Nazi if you like, but nomenclature is relevant, IMHO.

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

RenderSeven (938535) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665821)

it's in the elliptic plane,

It might be in the epileptic plane (so its shaken and not stirred). I dont think anyone has an electric plane yet. Airbus might be considered an eclectic plane. Or perhaps you meant the ecliptic plane?

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47669337)

There are a number of electric planes... air planes that is :)

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665961)

Technically, all iron and nickel is the byproduct of a supernova explosion, as only stellar fusion is energetic enough to generate such heavy elements, and only a supernova is powerful enough to launch those elements clear of the star's gravity well. However, the concept that a mass of iron and nickel could survive such an event as a coherent slug is laughable.

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

Rob Bos (3399) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666061)

Ecliptic.

Re:Molten piece of crystalline rock with ionic bon (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | about a month and a half ago | (#47669253)

I would conclude that this was part of a larger body. It is a solid rock because it was molten at some point in its history. Probably resulted from a larger collision.

fucking magnets (5, Funny)

Narcocide (102829) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665229)

how do they work?

Or maybe... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665265)

Maybe all the rocks already flew off due to the spin, and that's why we aren't seeing that happening.

Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated? (5, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665271)

Maybe it doesn't know any better. Rocks aren't exactly known for their keen intelligence.

Re:Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated? (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665555)

My pet rock says otherwise, you insensitive clod!

Re:Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665617)

My pet rock says otherwise, you insensitive clod!

My dog just said, "Video, or it didn't happen." ;-)

Re:Why Hasn't This Asteroid Disintegrated? (1)

Hohlraum (135212) | about a month and a half ago | (#47671115)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H6XEfRnwhg

This can easily be explaned... (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665541)

Black gravity

Slashdot will undergo planned maintenance from Thursday August 14, 5-6pm (Eastern Time). slashdot.org and beta.slashdot.org may be limited in functionality or unavailable during that time.

This is totally unacceptable!!!

Re:This can easily be explaned... (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665621)

I think i meant dark power or somthin... same stuff that the established scientits dream up when they can't explain the weight of galaxies.

Re:This can easily be explaned... (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666361)

Katamari Damacy.

Re:This can easily be explaned... (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a month and a half ago | (#47671561)

Touche :)

Thats is possibly the strangest and most hilarious game ever.
Only from Japan.

That's not what van der Waals is! (5, Informative)

plus_M (1188595) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665559)

TFS says that vdW interactions are interactions between polar molecules... that's absolutely false! The reason water has a high surface tension is due to hydrogen bonding, which is a combination of polar interactions and charge transfer. The reason that polar molecules attract is entirely due to electrostatic reasons... electric dipoles aligning causing favorable interactions. Van der Waals interactions are when NON-polar molecules spontaneously polarize one another to form instantaneous dipoles, which attract electrostatically. The key here is that vdW attractions occur even in molecules that do not have any static dipole... the dipole-dipole interactions are dynamic and fluctuating. One of the hallmarks of vdW interactions are their asymptotic behavior. Charge-charge interactions die off as r^-1. Dipole-dipole interactions die off as r^-3. vdW interactions die off as r^-6.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (2)

sexconker (1179573) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665689)

You're lucky Slashdot doesn't have a "-1: Basic Grasp of Relevant Concepts", because I'm sure you'd be modbombed by it.

Maybe I'm just old, but I'm really sick of seeing articles, interviews, etc. where the "expert", often times an actual degree-wielding scientist, gets fundamental concepts completely wrong. Every time I hear someone explain lift with "air on the top of the wing has to move faster, so... lift!" I want to defecate into their open mouths.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666625)

You are a hateful, spiteful old bastard. You are absolutely incapable of making a post on this site that isn't in some way insulting. I feel bad for you- empathize even. Just so you know, there is help out there available for people like you. Just because the DSM discarded Asperger's does mean that it isn't real. Seek help immediately!

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666753)

You are a hateful, spiteful old bastard.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (1)

plus_M (1188595) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667143)

I'm not sure I know what you mean. Where have I failed to grasp the relevant concepts? I'm merely criticizing the mistaken impression that TFS (which is apparently lifted directly from TFA) gives about what vdW forces are.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about a month and a half ago | (#47672793)

I'm not sure I know what you mean. Where have I failed to grasp the relevant concepts? I'm merely criticizing the mistaken impression that TFS (which is apparently lifted directly from TFA) gives about what vdW forces are.

I'm saying you do exhibit a basic grasp of relevant concepts, that on Slashdot people who are correct usually get shat upon, and that the "experts" in TFA often don't have a basic grasp of the relevant concepts, as your post illustrates.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (1)

radtea (464814) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667627)

Every time I hear someone explain lift with "air on the top of the wing has to move faster, so... lift!" I want to...

There's nothing at all wrong with that explanation. It is neither better nor worse than any other explanation that is less than a full solution to the Navier-Stokes equation, and it provides a naive and surprisingly practical guide to interacting with airfoils, which the vorticity explanation, for example, does not.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about a month and a half ago | (#47672971)

Air doesn't have to "move faster". Viewing the profile of a wing and using it as a fixed reference point, the air on top doesn't have to move faster in the horizontal plane at all, it just has to be deflected. Air moving at a velocity (or a relatively faster one) doesn't create a force. Air moving faster than other air doesn't create lift.
What creates lift is the deflection of air. This is achieved by the angle of attack of the wings. When air has to change direction there's acceleration, and thus force.

If lift was caused by air moving faster over one face of the wing than the other, it would be impossible for planes to fly upside down. The shape of the wings (top face vs bottom face) has a very minor role in creating lift. Wings are shaped the way they are for stability and efficiency (the reduced drag and slight spoiler effect).

Get some large pieces of cardboard. Your latest Amazon shipment or pizza order will do. Cut out rectangle wings and strap them onto your arms so they are level when you stretch out your arms to your sides. Spin in a circle. No lift. Stop.
Tilt the wings up (leading edge is higher). Spin in a circle. Holy shit your arms want to ascend. Stop.
Tilt the wings down (leading edge is lower). Spin in a circle. Holy shit your arms want to descend. Stop.

Lift is due to the deflection of air under the wing. The difference in relative linear velocity between the airstream above the wing and the airstream below the wing is a result of this deflection. This difference is not the cause of lift nor is it dependent on the shape of the wing looking like a traditional wing. Perfectly flat wings will do just fine.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665903)

vdW interactions die off as r^-6.

That's why the idea that a rock staying on an asteroid could be attributed to vdW is pretty hard to believe. vdW falls off insanely fast at the atomic scale, and doesn't seem likely to apply to rocks.

Re:That's not what van der Waals is! (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a month and a half ago | (#47668949)

Aren't vdW interactions any non-ionic, non-covalent interactions, including dipole-dipole (though I wouldn't include hydrogen bonding, as they are partly covalent)? With London forces, that falls off with r^-6 being an example of vdW interactions?'

Of course, that still makes the summary wrong, but differently wrong.

Conspiracy (1)

Teun (17872) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665593)

Such forces would be comparable to those that caused lunar dust to stick to astronauts' space suits.

Ohh stop it! Now after so many years we should just admit the dust was sticking because they were too hasty starting to use the new set in the area 51 studio's and the black paint hadn't yet fully dried.

No (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665609)

Betteridge's Law says no.

possible answers (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665631)

1. said rocks are seeking their 'natural place', and have found it
2. spinning does not lose you any weight
3. surface friction in the horizontal plane

Re:possible answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666023)

2. spinning does not lose you any weight

Are you telling me all those spinning classes I took at the Y were worthless, and did nothing for my figure?

So... (1)

Agares (1890982) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665723)

In other words things can stick to other things. Who would have thought?

Erm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665757)

If it's been spinning like that all along then surely it would have no debris left on it to eject into space? When exactly did it start spinning? Oh, You don't know...

It's centripetal stupid (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a month and a half ago | (#47665815)

Beyond this limit, outward centrifugal forces...

I stopped reading at this point unless the writer can explain where these mysterious "centrifugal" forces emanate from.

Re:It's centripetal stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666257)

...from the fact that we're dealing with a rotating reference frame here. Do you even physics, bro?

Re:It's centripetal stupid (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a month and a half ago | (#47666955)

I did. Rotating mass is subjected to its own inertia. No "force" is pulling it outward.

Re:It's centripetal stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47666675)

Indeed... DO. YOU. EVEN. PHYSICS. BRAH?





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Oh you know... The usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47665845)

Dark Matter, the Aether, Either, ect.

Van del Waal's forces (1)

Jason Goatcher (3498937) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667779)

I like online games where there's PvP and more than one character in your arsenal. It's even better when you have a username like Van der Waal, because then your forces are, logically, Van der Waal's forces.

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night, or until the drinks run out.

Sweet Revenge (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667815)

Let's destroy it by launching dinosaurs at it.

Didn't I read about this once? (1)

Wapiti-eater (759089) | about a month and a half ago | (#47667961)

Something about a "Rendezvous " or something with "Rama" or the like. It's been awhile.

Where do they get 2.2 hours from? (1)

jgoemat (565882) | about a month and a half ago | (#47668819)

The article makes it sound like it doesn't matter what size or mass.

Parameters: Radius 650m, Circumference 4084m, Period 7560s, Speed 0.5157m/s, Mass 2.1e12kg

Calculating Surface Gravity [wikipedia.org] = 0.0003315m/s/s [google.com] .

Centrifugal Force [wikipedia.org] = 0.00040915m/s/s [google.com]

While that relates to the orbital speed [wikipedia.org] calculated for the mass and radius of 0.4642m/s, it is far less than the escape velocity [wikipedia.org] of 0.6565m/s [google.com] . So how far out would it go?

The numbers are so small that if you take the speed they are moving of 0.5157m/s tangental to the surface and point it straight upwards and accelerate it with the gravity of 0.0003315m/s/s then it would come to a stand-still in somewhere over [google.com] 1600 [google.com] seconds at a height somewhere over 800m [google.com] and fall back towards the asteroid.

I don't know the maths to figure out the exact values since they vary so greatly with distance, but the difference in centrifugal and gravitational force is only 0.00007765m/s/s. That means that something weighing 100 TONS on earth would have a net upward force of about 1.6 pounds [google.com] . Of course you can't treat the asteroid as discrete frictionless atoms. What holds a dirt clod together overcoming the full force of earth's gravity to maintain it's shape?

So if you were attached to the surface and dropped a rock it seems to me that it should continue upwards and orbit the asteroid at some altitude. It doesn't surprise me though that since dust can stick to my ceiling and ceiling fan blades even when they're whirring around that this asteroid can stick together.

Re:Where do they get 2.2 hours from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47669355)

"What holds a dirt clod together overcoming the full force of earth's gravity to maintain it's shape?"

Water.

If it were in a vacuum it would collapse as the water sublimates...

Water is also the reason dust sticks to fan blades.

Dark Matter (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about a month and a half ago | (#47669723)

'Nuff said.

Quantum black hole? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about a month and a half ago | (#47670309)

Maybe it's got a quantum black hole at it's center, and it's just big enough to provide sufficient gravity to prevent debris on the surface from departing, but small enough that it's not rapidly consuming the asteroid yet?

Re:Quantum black hole? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47671369)

Nope. Dark Matter.

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