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Hole in Asteroid Belt Reveals Extinction Asteroid

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the it's-the-big-one dept.

Space 175

eldavojohn writes "Further evidence for the asteroid mass extinction theory has been discovered as a break in the main asteroid belt of our solar system. From the article, "A joint U.S.-Czech team from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Charles University in Prague suggests that the parent object of asteroid (298) Baptistina disrupted when it was hit by another large asteroid, creating numerous large fragments that would later create the Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan Peninsula as well as the prominent Tycho crater found on the Moon.""

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hmm (0, Troll)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20489357)

This article was written on the basis of a suggestion? Please get back to me when you have facts. They may be onto something.

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489371)

It is a fact that something happened.. probably.

Re:hmm (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20489405)

Obviously. But the jury is still out as to how.

Re:hmm (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489771)

A few years ago, I was at the library. While looking through the natural history section in the stacks, I felt an overwhelming urge to shit. Now, normally I don't like using public restrooms (I don't want toilet seat herpes), but I hadn't had a decent shit in a couple days, so I was overdue. I grabbed some reading material and headed for the shitter.

Perched on the throne, I loosened my sphincter and started reading. Two chapters later, I was interrupted by someone entering. Fuck! I'd been here too long and my wife was probably wondering where I was hiding. Looking down at the bowl as I wiped my ass, I saw a monster turd bigger than a black cock. No wonder I felt so shitty.

Beating a hasty retreat, I noticed a pasty fat guy at the urinal. He looked like a queer or maybe a linux user, and seemed to be staring at me. Whatever.

A few minutes later, I realized I had left my book in the john. I went back to get it and was shocked to find a man kneeling at the john, eating a turd (I forget to flush). Holy fuck.

Re:hmm (2, Funny)

bhsurfer (539137) | about 7 years ago | (#20493629)

Perhaps an airplane full of "missing" nukes hit it.

Re:hmm (4, Insightful)

skoaldipper (752281) | about 7 years ago | (#20489479)

Timing is everything, which is the main thrust of this article I gather, linking that event to interesting moon and earth geological formations during the same epoch.

But, if Chicxulub was the 8 ball, and Baptistina the combo shot, I was left wondering at the end of my reading, what was the cue ball, and where was the pool stick? Of more concern, when does the best 2 out of 3 match take place?

Fermi (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 7 years ago | (#20489797)

"when does the best 2 out of 3 match take place?"

Good question. We've only been observing the asteroid belt for a relatively short time ( on a solar scale ), so it may be that splattering the local neighborhood is a regular phenomenon.

It gives us one more variable in Fermi's paradox.

Re:Fermi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20490313)

Out atmosphere limits it....a little... there are craters all over the world. No doubt we'll be hit again, but when?

Re:Fermi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20493123)


Re:hmm (4, Funny)

Cytlid (95255) | about 7 years ago | (#20492161)

You beat me to the pool analogy punch.

  I was going to say, "Einstein was right, God doesn't play dice. He plays pool. Third planet, corner pocket!"

No crap (3, Insightful)

gerf (532474) | about 7 years ago | (#20489503)

Let's get some logic here:

1. There are more inter-system collisions than we realize. Example: Schoemaker-Levi

2. The Sun is bigger than Earth, and therefore would probably get hit 1000% (or more) more often. Example: eclipses show this quite easily

2.a Corollary: The Sun is the center of the Solar System, not Earth. Example: Copernicus

3. The big Yucatan collision happened millions of years ago, and since then things have moved a bit. We can't predict movement 10 years from now, much less 160 Million. Example: We still use Pork-Chop plots at NASA

4. They predict an impact 160 million years ago, 95 million years off the mark. Example: Dino fossils are as new as 65 million.

Overall, this isn't the most reliable of links and summaries in recent /. history. At least I haven't seen any Global Warming scarey articles in a while. Maybe the Firehose is working afterall?

Re:No crap (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20489529)

At least I haven't seen any Global Warming scarey articles in a while.
I really wish we had a "fearmonger" tag for those.

Re:No crap (0, Offtopic)

Markspark (969445) | about 7 years ago | (#20491201)

yeah, cause we all know that global warming is a myth started be commies and liberals, now where the hell are my nukes? the burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which leads to more solar radiation being absorbed in our atmosphere, leading to a warmer climate.. which in turn ups the amount of water in the atmosphere, which incidentally also is a greenhouse gas. positive feedback loop ftw!

Re:No crap (1)

loganrapp (975327) | about 7 years ago | (#20491887)

It's not commies and liberals. It's scientists needing grants.

Re:No crap (2, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 7 years ago | (#20492149)

While I've heard enough arguments on both sides as to not be sure any more (the best argument I've heard is about global warming on other planets, which shows that we're not really having as much of an effect as we thing we are), it seems that a lot of people just try and dismiss the whole thing because they want to continue guzzling gas and polluting the planet. Personally I love driving and all the modern benefits we receive because of our polluting ways, but cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions and our use of oil is a worthwhile cause anyway, unless you just don't give a shit about our descendants.

Re:No crap (4, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#20492649)

You have just accused an entire field of science of being nothing but liars.

Do you have the kind of evidence needed to back up a claim like that?

Re:No crap (1)

dintech (998802) | about 7 years ago | (#20492451)

now where the hell are my nukes?

On a 3 hour trip across the country on a B-52?

Re:No crap (5, Insightful)

Arabani (1127547) | about 7 years ago | (#20489685)

4. They predict an impact 160 million years ago, 95 million years off the mark. Example: Dino fossils are as new as 65 million.
They believe that the BREAKUP occurred 160 million years ago, not whatever wiped out the dinosaurs. It takes time for things to move from the asteroid belt to the Earth, you know.

Re:No crap (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about 7 years ago | (#20492485)

Although things take some time to move across the solar system, I believe that 65 million years may be an exaggeration, especially when you consider the acceleration that gravity causes.

Re:No crap (1)

GTMoogle (968547) | about 7 years ago | (#20492593)

To continue another thread's pool analogy, it probably wasn't a straight shot, but banked of the edges for a while.

In the grand scheme of things the solar system is pretty sparse. Even large, slow-moving objects are pretty unlikely to hit anything on a random traversal, but will often end up in strange orbits.

Re:No crap (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489953)

2. The Sun is bigger than Earth, and therefore would probably get hit 1000% (or more) more often. Example: eclipses show this quite easily
It would be extraordinarily hard for any object to hit the Sun. Only if an object was heading directly for the Sun as it entered the Solar System gravity well or if it originally had an extremely eccentric orbit would it be able to hit the Sun. This point may not be obvious to those who haven't studied physics, but the Solar System is a gravity well. If your goal is to hit the Sun (i.e. to touch the atmosphere where you will be aerodynamically decelerated/toasted), then you need to give up a lot of energy. Probes like MESSENGER that want to go into orbit around Mercury need to use more fuel than they would to escape the Solar System entirely.

From your point of view as a comet or other object in elliptical orbit around the Sun, if you wanted to actually collide with the Sun you would need to strike an object such that it sent you into an elliptical orbit with such a high eccentricity that your orbit passed through the atmosphere of the Sun. The probability of that happening is extremely remote. The probability of sending a collided object through the orbits of any of the planets is not.

For objects that are not orbiting the Sun when they are approaching (and can't be captured without a collision with a third body), your direction of approach has to be so finely positioned that those mythical sniper shots at 1 mile or more look trivial. In no case will the Sun's gravity make a collision more probable (or in the other case).

Sun-grazing (2, Interesting)

Guppy (12314) | about 7 years ago | (#20491355)

Just curious -- although it is unlikely for an object to actually hit the sun, how likely are objects to be tidally disrupted or boiled away by near-grazes?

Re:No crap (4, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | about 7 years ago | (#20491767)

For a bit of fun when I was running my solar system model a while back I tried to hit Sol with an asteroid. Its rather tricky, but it can be done if the velocity is low enough and you contrive an orbit. It's virtually impossible, at least I never managed it, to slingshot an object around one of the inner planets and hit the sun.

Yes, yes, I'm a geek, I have no life, I really spent days doing this [/sob]

There's the other thing though, define 'impact'. Most comets are icy, many asteroids are ice and shale. Put those close to the sun and you get vapour, and no more comet/asteroid. That would be an impact. my software can't do such things, but I probably got a few impacts of this type.

Incidentally altering the mass of the sun up to the Chandrasekhar limit doesn't mean any of the planets collapse into the sun, they all get ejected. Neptune gets into an orbit so elliptical and fast that I believe it would be stripped to whatever is at its core before it was finally ejected.

Re:No crap (1)

Trailwalker (648636) | about 7 years ago | (#20492279)

The probability of that happening is extremely remote.
Only in terms of human reference; i.e., in our lifetimes.

In the time scale of the universe, the probability of an event approaches 100%.

Re:No crap (5, Insightful)

barakn (641218) | about 7 years ago | (#20490141)

Eclipses show this quite easily? What the heck is that supposed to mean? And pork chop plots show how much energy it will take for a spacecraft to escape Earth's gravity, place it on a course to another object, and capture it into orbit upon arrival as a function of different launch and arrival dates. They are most definitely not, as you seem to imply, some sort of error estimate for orbital trajectories. It's sad that you've decided to try to cast aspersions on research done by the Southwest Research Institute, as it is highly regarded in the field, and you don't seem to know what you're talking about.

Re:No crap (4, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 7 years ago | (#20490557)

>We can't predict movement 10 years from now

NASA does it all the time for deep space probes, Halley's Comet returns are predicted many orbits in advance, and in general celestial mechanics is one of the most exact predictive disciplines. Even tiny deviations, such as those of Mercury's orbit (56 arc seconds per year!), are considered grounds for revising theories of gravity.

Re:No crap (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#20492677)

Those are usually tiny preturbations of 2-body problems. Those are easy. 3-body problems and up, that's another story entirely. They can be extremely sensitive to initial conditions.

Re:No crap (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20490755)

1. There are more inter-system collisions than we realize. Example: Schoemaker-Levi

Data is not the plural form of anecdote.

Re:No crap (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | about 7 years ago | (#20491359)

4. They predict an impact 160 million years ago, 95 million years off the mark. Example: Dino fossils are as new as 65 million.

I'm no expert, but there are (at least) 2 big craters on the earth, each roughly corresponding to a big die-off. I think they are talking about the earlier one, while the later one is the dinodeath one.

Atheism is religion (0, Offtopic)

TheSciBoy (1050166) | about 7 years ago | (#20492813)

(Offtopic)As regards to your sig.

Atheism is the belief that there is/are no god/gods (see wikipedia). Belief in absence of proof means it's a religion. I'm an atheist and I believe that god has no place in our universe, but it is only a belief, I have no proof. If I had proof then this would be science and not religion and I would have been killed by religious fanatics a long time ago.

Re:No crap (4, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | about 7 years ago | (#20491365)

2. The Sun is bigger than Earth, and therefore would probably get hit 1000% (or more) more often. Example: eclipses show this quite easily

WTF does an eclipse show? I hope you're not talking about sunspots, which have nothing to do with asteroids. 4. They predict an impact 160 million years ago, 95 million years off the mark.

RTFA. There was a series of impacts over millenia, Yucatan being the biggest, but not the first. Many of the earth grazers we see now may have originated in the same event.

At least I haven't seen any Global Warming scarey articles in a while. Maybe the Firehose is working afterall?

It's not news when it's a known fact. Seeing as how you willfully misinterpreted this article, I'm not surprsed you remain confused about that too.

Re:No crap (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 years ago | (#20493479)

"We can't predict movement 10 years from now, much less 160 Million. Example: We still use Pork-Chop plots at NASA"

Yes, an that's why the Digital Orrery of Sussman et al. didn't work. They made up all the research results. (You realize I'm being sarcastic, don't you?)

Re:hmm (It's called the Scientific Method, Moron) (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489927)

Do I really have to post anything but my modification to the title of original post? This is Slashdot,the home of snotty nerds who know almost nothing, and love to belittle their intellectual superiors, so I guess I have to spell it out.

Scientists look at facts and make hypothesis. They publish the ideas and facts that support them, and other scientists read them and add information that either supports or refutes the hypothesis. The sum total of knowledge increases over time.

The authors of the paper were doing simulations of asteroid dynamics. They found a possible event in the asteroid belt that may explain a known increase in meteor impacts in the inner solar system. They noted that this hypothesis fits in with two known large meteors, the proposed dinosaur extinction event and the moon crater Tycho. Their simulations add support to the earth impact hypothesis and the earth impact data indirectly supports their claim. This is how science works.

So how is this only a 'suggestion' with no real 'facts' to support it? I suggest that you 'get back to me' when you grow up and understand how intelligent people do real scientific inquiry. I know your little wee-wee got all hard when you had a chance to make a first post and trash some adults, but it just makes you look like a spoiled and nasty little child. Perhaps if you ever do anything useful in your life your attitude will change, but somehow I doubt that will ever happen.

Re:hmm (It's called the Scientific Method, Moron) (2, Insightful)

umghhh (965931) | about 7 years ago | (#20491305)

This is a sign of something more. The overall lack of basic logic capability (on /. as well as in real life) is just a fact. I see it every morning when I enter my office and open my mail box. It is fascinating to see educated people telling me for instance that you do not need any documentation and review process on (software) enginering projects. It is just a question of time to see them looking for reasons of failure. Surprisingly this reason is either aliens from outer space or the messangers.

Of course one shall never confuse simple incompetence and lack of knowledge with stupidity and bad will. The former can be eradicated the later not.

Re:hmm (2, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 7 years ago | (#20490795)

If it's not true then why aren't we up to our asses in velociraptors?


Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489395)


Alternative theories??? (4, Funny)

click2005 (921437) | about 7 years ago | (#20489401)

a break in the main asteroid belt of our solar system

The Flying Spaghetti Monster was making meatballs gets my vote.

Re:Alternative theories??? (2, Funny)

rat10177sd (963462) | about 7 years ago | (#20492409)

Nah, it's the Vogons putting in that Hyperspace freeway. they'll be here after they finish that part of the job.

"Don't try to outweird me, three-eyes. I get stranger things than you free with my breakfast cereal." - Zaphod Beeblebrox in "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"

my vote goes to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20493169)

"asshole with slashdot account"

Cue The Godfather violin music (5, Funny)

nizo (81281) | about 7 years ago | (#20489411)

At approximately 170 kilometers in diameter and having characteristics similar to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, the Baptistina parent body resided in the innermost region of the asteroid belt when it was hit by another asteroid estimated to be 60 kilometers in diameter. This catastrophic impact produced what is now known as the Baptistina asteroid family, a cluster of asteroid fragments with similar orbits.

Ok lets all hope we don't get another visit from the hit men of our solar system, the Baptistina family.

Re:Cue The Godfather violin music (3, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 7 years ago | (#20490249)

Say, that's a real nice planet you got there. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to it...

Re:Cue The Godfather violin music (1)

hywel_ap_ieuan (892599) | about 7 years ago | (#20493491)

Ok lets all hope we don't get another visit from the hit men of our solar system, the Baptistina family.

If anyone has the right contacts, I think an effort should be made to get one of the Baptistina objects named "Joey Bananas" or "Paulie Walnuts". Maybe some sub-group of the family could be christened the Soprano swarm.

Ach.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489421)

Hoo there, Kingfish... somebody done stole the asteroid.

How to get mainstream coverage (3, Interesting)

paleo2002 (1079697) | about 7 years ago | (#20489427)

If you want your obscure research paper to receive mainstream media coverage and net you loads of grant money, be sure to link your work to one or more of the following "hot topics":

meteor impact


mass extinction

global warming



energy efficient cars

OK, fine. There's a gap in the asteroid belt indicating that several large objects were knocked loose some time in the past few million years. And, yes, those objects will be most likely to fall towards the Sun and insect the orbits of the inner planets. That doesn't mean you've found where the infamous dinosaur-killing meteor came from. That's pure speculation! That gap could just as easily been left by the meteor that caused the P/Tr extinction or by a meteor that hit Venus.

Re:How to get mainstream coverage (1)

Cheezymadman (1083175) | about 7 years ago | (#20489471)

You forgot "Digg it, have all your friends Digg it, then make a Slashdot account and submit it there."

I've Been Foiled! (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 7 years ago | (#20489577)

... then make a Slashdot account and submit it there.
You caught me. Oh how you've ruined years of careful plotting and planning. I am not eldavojohn, I am actually a Czech researcher named Dr. David Vokrouhlicky. I have slowly been posting careful karma whoring posts [] and submitting story after story [] all in the name of eventually publishing my research and getting it on the front page of Slashdot.

Yes, it was a long arduous endeavor. Gaining people's trust, making foes of others. It was an ingenious plan to boost the popularity and public acceptance of my paper ... and I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

Well, the gig is up, that hole was actually created by Rumfoord and his dog, Kazak. Ohhh, no, I've wasted my life! Who would have thought such a ridiculously elaborate and circuitous plan to tilt the scientific world towards accepting my theories based on computer models could have been foiled by an internet user named Cheezymadman!?

Re:I've Been Foiled! (1)

Eevee1 (1147279) | about 7 years ago | (#20490041)

Herr Doktor, don't forget your lowly assistant, Igor Krumm! Your paper shall receive the glory that it deserves, Herr Doktor! Just you wait! Igor awaaaaaaaaaay!

Hate to be a dick but... (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20489613)

Sun and intersect the orbits of the inner planets
There. Now I can sleep better.

Re:Hate to be a dick but... (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | about 7 years ago | (#20490757)

Sun and intersect the orbits of the inner planets
There. Now I can sleep better.

I thought he meant that asteriods buzz around planets like flies.

Re:How to get mainstream coverage (1)

blahdeblah2000 (1013033) | about 7 years ago | (#20492223)

Strange but nobody seems to be researching the theory that the technologically advanced Dinosaurs became extinct (well apart from the ones still alive and in hiding) after repeated attempts to alter their DNA lead to mass obesity which lead to them using unefficient cars which lead to global warming which roasted their cold blooded insides.

This meteor stuff is nonsense.

Re:How to get mainstream coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20493325)

The mass extinction (not by a meteor impact) of energy efficient cars that fight global warming won't work for the poor folks whose DNA causes their dinosaur-like obesity.

Now get my goddamn research grant here RIGHT NOW dammit!

-mcgrew []

I for one welcome our asteroid overlords! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489431)

No really, I do.

Re:I for one welcome our asteroid overlords! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 7 years ago | (#20490625)

I for one welcome our man-made meme-parrot killing super-virus!

wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489519)

an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune disrupted the gravity and sent many asteroids towards the earth/moon. This alignment (160 million years ago) is consistent with the dinosaur extinction and the increased asteroid activity on the moon (which has no atmosphere, so evidence doesn't get lost).

Hole (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489579)

Even a hole that big doesn't scare me as much as goatse's.

fsm (1)

SolusSD (680489) | about 7 years ago | (#20489611)

An asteroid didn't kill the dinosaurs!! They died at the hand of His noodley appendage! And the asteroids are meatballs.

Hole in the asteroid belt?? (1)

RuBLed (995686) | about 7 years ago | (#20489631)

I RTFA cause I'm curious about this hole but... Why is the title like that? Did the thousands of big asteriods created by the collision of these two produced a hole?

A title "Baptistina family killed the dinosaurs" would be more precise...

Re:Hole in the asteroid belt?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20489727)

Doesn't "the Baptistina family made a hit on the dinos" sound like some kind of Mafioso thing? What, the giant reptiles hadn't paid their protection money?

That's all? Earth and Moon? (4, Funny)

haakondahl (893488) | about 7 years ago | (#20489719)

It didn't create sunspots and the Great Red Spot? I think these folks are not imaginative enough.

Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (4, Insightful)

abbamouse (469716) | about 7 years ago | (#20489783)

I wonder if this means that our current strategy of tracking asteroids to see if they will impact Earth is the wrong one. Perhaps no asteroids "naturally" hit Earth on their present trajectories. If it takes a collision within the asteroid belt to throw out material that impacts Earth, maybe we should be trying to track the movements of large asteroids to see if they will intersect EACH OTHER rather than Earth.

I may be misunderstanding the data, and I would never change policy based on a single study, but this suggests that a more sophisticated approach is needed to detect potential impactors.

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

bidule (173941) | about 7 years ago | (#20490139)

Yes, of course! Because once quasi-collision changes an asteroid orbit, we only have a few million years left before it gets within lunar orbit!

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

abbamouse (469716) | about 7 years ago | (#20490283)

Do we know this? I'm no astronomer, so I don't. Just how much can an orbit be altered by a collision? (Or at least, one that doesn't pulverize both objects).

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20491203)

"Just how much can an orbit be altered by a collision?"

It depends. I would think that if multiple objects that are already in 'stable' orbits in the belt and there was a collision, it wouldn't be that much of a problem. Orbits are pretty much defined via mass/distance. Collisions now probably happen often, given the number of objects. Any very eccentric orbits will have more of a chance to hit another object as they have more of a tendency to cross other object's orbit. After all these billions of years, orbits should have matured to more stable and collisions should happen less. AND since the orbits are more stable, the rocks will sort by mass. The 'smaller' will be closer to the sun and larger further away. (given that the orbits with higher eccentricities smash into things and get smaller)

I think that a rogue object would have a better chance to cause a collision for a large object to have its orbit changed.

The odds are very good that in my lifetime we will have some extraterrestrial event that will shake up our understanding again. (large impact, supernova, aliens, who knows?)


Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

Photonic Shadow (1119225) | about 7 years ago | (#20491363)

I've actually done astronomy, and have the master's thesis to prove it.

So bow down amateur posers, and pay head to the voice of truth!

Here's the scoop. Heating from solar radiation when an astroid is absorbed by the 'side' of the astroid facing the Sun. As the astroid rotates that 'side' away from the Sun IR is radiated away from the astroid. This absorption, and radiation of Solar energy is in the form of photons. Over a long period of time the cumulative effect of this thermal thrusting can alter an astroids orbit. This along with gravitational perturbations cause impacts of astroids within the belt to collide, fragment, and eventually to have their orbits altered to such a degree as to place some of these objects on an intercept trajectory with the Earth-Moon system.

What I believe that the authors are alluding to is that Earth-Moon impactors undergo a lengthy process. If it can be shown that the K-T event was the result of an astroid from the astroid belt being dislodged, and if further corroborating evidence can be discovered then a lot of the Chicken Little reports, shows, etc. will eventually calm down. If Earth-Moon impactors are by and large, if not almost totally from such an event as is described in tfa then the odds of the Earth-Moon system encountering an impactor from a rouge orbit, or trajectory will be very much lessened.


Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20492285)

>So bow down amateur posers, and pay head to the voice of truth!

I highly doubt that anyone here is going to give you a blowjob.

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about 7 years ago | (#20491473)

Do we know this? I'm no astronomer, so I don't. Just how much can an orbit be altered by a collision? (Or at least, one that doesn't pulverize both objects).

I'm no astronomer either, but we can run some numbers found a la Google and give ourselves some reasonable estimates. Anybody who IS an astronomer is free to correct my numbers, but my intention is merely a "back of the napkin" class estimate.

How fast does an asteroid travel? The average speed of an asteroid is 25km/second. [] Since I'm am American, to me that's about 15 miles per SECOND.

Earth is 7,926 Miles across. [] For these figures I'll use 8,000 miles.

Asteroids are somewhere between 1.8 and 4.5 AU from the sun. [] The earth is 1 AU from the son. Since both orbit the sun, and the average distance of earth from the sun is 0 AU (orbit being roughly circular) let's say that the average distance of an asteroid from Earth is about 2.2 AU. Since earth is 1 AU and that is 93 Million miles [] , we'll say that the average asteroid is about 93 million * 2.2 miles from the Earth. That's 204.6 million miles from the Earth.

So let's assume that two rocks hit. What are the odds that the asteroid goes out and whacks the Earth, straight away? Well, we'd end up with a 204.6 MILLION MILE RADIUS on the inside of a very large sphere. Using the formula for calculating the surface of a sphere [] , we get 261,348,480,000,000,000 square miles of area that the asteroid could potentially hit. Compare that to the actual area of Earth to hit (a circle 2*pi*r) =~ 50,000 miles.

In short, you have a 50,000 in 261,348,480,000,000,000, or 1 in 5,226,969,600,000. (one in about 5 trillion)

These are very VERY VERY small odds, even if my back-of-the-napkin calculations are off by several orders of magnitude. Let's give you some idea just how BIG 5 trillion is. There have been about 1 billion seconds since Jan 1, 1972. To wait 1 trillion seconds is to wait about 30,000 years. If asteroids were to collide every SINGLE SECOND it would STILL take over 30,000 YEARS for one to hit the Earth directly.

Now, these figures are rough. They do not take into account orbital mechanics, etc. But even so, the numbers are very small (large as odds against?) indeed.

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

mattr (78516) | about 7 years ago | (#20491659)

No. As mentioned in TFA, the asteroid fragments are expected to have ridden on the "interplanetary superhighway" which though not described is a network of paths throughout the solar system that things like spaceships and apparently asteroids can ride on without requiring additional energy. So they got onto a gravitational path that brought them to the Earth. There seem to be a limited number of these paths so the risk is high not low. Anyway the superhighway was found by Martin Lo who used it on the Genesis Project. I think the satellite in halo orbit between the Earth and the Sun used it for a very fuel efficient journey IIRC. Besides, even if the IS didn't exist still you would have a 100km wide piece of rock going around the Sun and after a while it would get attracted to the gravity of the Earth. Hitting us the millionth orbit is as bad as doing it the first time, if we are around then.

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about 7 years ago | (#20491835)

Cool. So let me turn the question around on you - when was the last known extinction-level event as a result of an asteroid or comet? Has it been over 30,000 years? Has it been over 300,000 years? or 3,000,000 years? Or even 30,000,000 years? (yes to all the above, if you were paying attention)

Perhaps the risk isn't as high as your "interplanetary superhighway" leads you to believe?

Based on emperical evidence, my napkin trumps your TFA.

Cheers! =)

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

mattr (78516) | about 7 years ago | (#20492859)

No reason to be facetious. That was the quote from TFA and there is real science behind the superhighway or whatever you want to call the gravitational assist network found by Martin Lo for slow, low energy transfers.

I'm not screaming chicken little, though I think it is the kind of thing where you don't really know the risk until you spend the money to investigate. Like these guys did. Last week astronomers found a huge number of the nearby galaxies are all pointed the same way, who would have imagined that. So I am not afraid per se but it would not be irrational to be afraid given we know so little.

Anyway FYI the most recent extinction level event of which I am aware was 13 years ago. In March 1994 as you probably remember a train of 1-2 kilometer diameter fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy struck Jupiter. The biggest one according to this link [] was a 6 MILLION megaton blast, 600 times the world's arsenal it says. Luckily Jupiter must catch most of the maverick objects. You remember how Sandia National Laboratory modeled the blast in advance (correctly IIRC) using their nuclear weapons simulator? Just because the dinosaur killer was so long ago and the crater is so big you don't see it from the ground doesn't mean these things are old news. I submit that we ought to spend as much monitoring objects in the solar system that we spend on say, pop music.

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (1)

Trogre (513942) | about 7 years ago | (#20490447)

So what you're saying is - God might be going for a trick shot?

Re:Gap in asteroid tracking data -- Earth at risk? (5, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 years ago | (#20491023)

The idea is that these collisions increase the number of asteroids that cross our orbit and can therefore have a chance of hitting us. It takes a while though. We don't really care about something that might hit us 160 million years from now. We care about something that might hit us say, this century. So we look at the ones that are already whizzing around in our neighborhood.

The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (2, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#20489879)

There is certainly a place for theories that propose that Tycho is an impact crater, and it's a very good thing that people are actually proposing simulations in an attempt to explain what we see. The idea that catastrophe plays an important role in our surroundings has increasingly become accepted. But, what do the astrophysical heretics say about Tycho? Only by listening to what they say can we play devil's advocate with this particular simulation ...


The astronomers' consensus today is that the streamers are the trails of material ejected from the crater into narrow paths over extraordinary distances. But the "rays", Juergens noted, have no discernible depth, while material exploding from a Tycho-sized crater "would at least occasionally fall more heavily in one place than in another and build up substantial formations. But no one has ever been able to point out such a ray 'deposit'".

The presence of the narrow rays over such long distances, according to Juergens, is "all-but-impossible to reconcile with ejection origins. Enormous velocities of ejection must be postulated to explain the lengths of the rays, yet the energetic processes responsible for such velocities must be imagined to be focused very precisely to account for the ribbon-thin appearance of the rays". In fact, this challenge has found no answer in more recent scientific exploration. No experimental explosion at any scale has ever produced anything comparable to the well-defined 1500-kilometer "rays" of Tycho.

Even more telling is the fact that the rays are punctuated with numerous small craters. An early explanation was that "some solid material was shot out with the jets and produced 'on-the-way' craters". But such narrow trajectories for secondary impactors are an absurdity under the mechanics of an explosion. And the total volume of ejected material needed to form the secondary craters along Tycho's rays, would amount to some 10,000 cubic kilometers - an amount of material entirely inconsistent with careful measurements indicating that practically all material excavated from Tycho's crater has been deposited in its rim. However, the ray elements, terminating on small craters, are the very markers that today's electrical theorists have cited repeatedly as definitive evidence of an electrical discharge path. As Wallace Thornhill has so often observed, such discharge streamers frequently terminate at a crater. In fact, this is exactly what Gene Shoemaker found when investigating the puzzles of Tycho--"...many small secondary craters, too small to be resolved by telescopes on earth, occur at the near end of each ray element."

When compared to an imagined sphere of the Moon's average radius, the surrounding highland region occupied by Tycho is more than 1200 meters above the "surface" of that sphere. The crater site appears to be at the summit, or very close to the summit, of terrain that trends downward in every direction away from the site for hundreds of kilometers. For the impact theory, this location can only be an accident. But for the electrical theorists, the elevation on which Tycho sits is not accidental. Lightning is attracted to the highest point on a surface. (That is, of course, the principle behind lightning arrestors placed on the pinnacles of tall buildings).

Though astronomers see Tycho's rays as material ejected from the focal point of an impact, a mere glance at this picture [] is sufficient to make clear that not all of the streamers radiate from a central point. Is this surprising? A mechanical impact has a single focal point and cannot explain these offset rays. Juergens noted that they "diverge from a common point, or common focus, located on or buried beneath the western rim of the crater." The electrical interpretation of Tycho sees the streamers as paths of electrons rushing across the lunar highlands to the highest point, where it launches into space to form the lightning "leader" stroke. The high point is destroyed in the process. The powerful lightning "return stroke" that forms the Tycho crater comes minutes afterwards and focuses on the nearest high point, a few kilometers to the east. In support of this explanation, the crater Tycho is surrounded by a dark halo of ejecta that blankets the extensive ray system, laid down earlier.

Tycho's crater rim rises about one kilometer above the surrounding terrain and the crater walls exhibit terraces (shown here) [] that are not characteristic of high energy explosions. However, such terracing is observed in innumerable instances of electrical discharge machining. (See the large terraced crater in the picture on the right here [] ). This terracing may be due to the fact that electrical current flows in plasma in the form of twisted filament pairs - rather like a double helix. So the terracing is caused by the cutting action of the rotating current filaments on the crater wall. Indeed, some lunar craters exhibit bilateral corkscrew terracing - another observation inexplicable by the impact model, but remarkably consistent with the principle of an arc constituted of twin rotating "Birkeland Currents".

While it is possible to get a "rebound peak" close to the center of an explosion, such a peak is not typical. In the electrical cratering experiments by plasma physicist CJ Ransom, (as seen here) [] central peaks were often the norm. As long ago as 1965, attention was drawn to the similar incidence of craters with central peaks in lunar craters and laboratory spark-machined craters. They seem to be an effect of the rotating current filaments, which may leave the center of a crater relatively untouched.

The electrical theorists find great irony in the many examples of earlier researchers who pointed to the electrical properties of phenomena that official science eventually learned to ignore. In 1903, W. H. Pickering, in his book The Moon, suggested that electrical effects could account for the narrow paths of Tycho's "rays", and he drew a direct comparison to the streamers seen in auroral displays. But as occurred so frequently in the twentieth century, evidence of electrical activity in space was ignored because it found no place in gravitational cosmology or in the curricula of astronomers and geologists.

Are they right? Who knows? But, the points they bring up are legitimate points, and it makes sense that they should be a part of the conversation. It's certainly fashionable right now to propose that all craters are due to impacts, and there are certainly processes that can explain at least some of the enigmatic features of a crater like Tycho. But, when some of the features of Tycho cannot be explained by impacts (like the displacement of some of the rays), then doesn't that matter? Doesn't that mean that alternative explanations for Tycho should be considered even if they violate the cosmology of preference? If you discount any interpretation of observations that do not conform to the popular cosmology, then doesn't the popular cosmology then become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

There are so many assumptions being made to get to the point of creating such simulations that it's easy to forget that each assumption has its own history, and the entire simulation's legitimacy depends on the survival of each of these individual assumptions. The full article can be viewed here [] .

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 7 years ago | (#20490319)

Umm, hang on, offset rays can in theory be explained by impact. Consider whether the primary body that impacted the centre of Tycho was alone, or had friends -- I think a fractured body of smaller mass accompaning the main body, with an impact point slightly off-centre of the main body (still remaining within the Tycho crater) could explain a ray that has a non-concentric origin? A comparison of the size of the concentric-origin vs. the nonconcentric origin rays, plus any of the main crater's divergence from circularity would be telling. Has that been factored in?

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | about 7 years ago | (#20490815)

Even without a second impactor, it's possible. Throw some rocks at angles into really viscous mud and check the splat patterns. Giant bolt of lightning in space? Suuuuuuure....

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (1)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#20490887)

Giant bolt of lightning in space? Suuuuuuure....

A lightning bolt in space will seem a lot more probable once you observe NASA's impending explanation for their ongoing observations of Enceladus.

Let's be real though: Like most others here, I seriously doubt that you have ever looked into the evidence for electrical space plasmas. I'm betting that you don't even realize that laboratory plasmas are electrical. If you never actually consider something long enough to hear out the evidence for it, then how can you know how improbable it is? Do you know what pseudo-skepticism is?

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (3, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 7 years ago | (#20490567)

We've actually witnessed collisions in space. And found evidence on earth for them. We've never seen any evidence for electrical arcs between heavenly bodies that would cause craters. So that at least implies that they are more rare, if they are possible. scientists discount interpretations of observations that are not supported by other observations. That is it. Only when an event cannot be explained by any existing model formed from previous observations, will they resort to wild guessing ( see string theory, multiple universe theory, etc).

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (2, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#20490845)

We've actually witnessed collisions in space. And found evidence on earth for them. We've never seen any evidence for electrical arcs between heavenly bodies that would cause craters.

This sounds a bit pseudo-skeptical to me. Are you aware that many of the images by the impactor in the Deep Impact mission clearly demonstrated numerous points of white-out? Check this out ... []

Either you believe everything that NASA interprets in its images as word of God, or there is the possibility that those white-outs are electrical arcs.

I've stated it many times before here on these forums -- because people around here tend to not realize it -- but it's worth repeating that Wallace Thornhill was able to predict nearly *all* of the results of the Deep Impact mission on the basis of space plasmas being electrical. In fact, he predicted that a pre-impact flash would be observed. And sure enough, there were two flashes at the time of impact. Nobody was predicting anything like that prior to the impact.

From day one, there have been issues with impact theory. As you may know, Meteor Crater was mined for years and the impacting body was never found within the crater. The Tunguska Crater has had the same problem.

But, the evidence is really quite significant by now that space plasmas can be electrical. In the lab, plasmas change in luminosity and resistance based upon their charge density according to three disjointed curves: the dark mode, the glow mode and the arc mode. If you ask me, the only thing preventing nature from doing the same thing are the mainstream astrophysicists themselves. Our laboratory experience should be relevant to what's happening in space.

Hannes Alfven postulated a theory that was later validated on how charge separation can occur in space (critical ionization velocity). Furthermore, it takes less than 1% of ionization within the lab for a gas to conduct electricity. Electric Universe Theory has nothing to do with exotic theoretical physics. All they're saying is that the plasma phenomenon we observe within the laboratory are relevant to our observations of space. That's it.

Only when an event cannot be explained by any existing model formed from previous observations, will they resort to wild guessing ( see string theory, multiple universe theory, etc).

If you decided to expose yourself to it -- something which few people actually do -- you would come to realize that there is a very legitimate debate to be had here. The problem is that people are satisfied with explaining away evidence which supports electrical space plasmas rather than considering the body of evidence as a whole that supports the notion. This is actually a perfect definition of pseudo-skepticism: applying skepticism in an unfair manner. This might be a legitimate procedure for interpreting observations if the mainstream theories were successfully predicting our observations. The thing is, they aren't. Don't you think that if the mainstream theories are so correct that we shouldn't be seeing so many surprises in our observations by now?

I salute you! (2, Interesting)

Gazzonyx (982402) | about 7 years ago | (#20492075)

Just watched the videos on YouTube. Thank you, sir. I was going to do stuff tonight before you had to go and get me off on this tangent for several hours. Intriguing stuff; it's a pity people won't let themselves ask "what if our theories are wrong?".

I'm not sure that I fully support this model, but it makes a lot of sense, and as usual the mainstream view is, "this isn't what I was told it right, so it's wrong. I'll arrogantly wave my hand, attack peoples character, resort to name calling, and make sure I never present a single chard of debatable evidence to bolster my position." One only needs to read a few criticisms from the video [] to verify what I've said.

I would love to see an academic debate on this. It seems we've got the idea that we've finally figured it all out... just the way that everyone else before us thought the same. I sometimes laugh at the very notion that we've made any progress when we can't even humble ourselves enough to accept that we might be wrong. If you're in the mainstream of anything and you're sure that you're right, you'll be a victim of your own pride in the worst way - you'll be forced to defend your position until you can't hold your ground any longer and become 'that guy who was replaced by the new guy who has the right idea'. I think we know where the 'new guy' ends his career, as well.

Ironically, I could be completely wrong. I may have missed the mark on this one, as I clearly don't know anything about cosmology, astronomy, or physics. Perhaps I'll be shown to be the fool. ;)

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20493433)

No. The problem is the electric universe stuff attracts cranks and crackpots. No astrophysicist believes that electrical effects are insignificant in the universe - they spend most of their time doing magnethydrodynamic investigation, for god's sake. But when some anti-relativity nut latches on, and some anti-quantum nut and all the other nuts, it drags credibility through the mud. Really, you're wasting your time listening to hangers-on and wannabees clustering around the electric universe web site.

Re:The Problems with Tycho as an Impact Crater (1)

barakn (641218) | about 7 years ago | (#20491103)

No experimental explosion at any scale has ever produced anything comparable to the well-defined 1500-kilometer "rays" of Tycho.
With a plastic tub, a marble, and a dollar's worth of white flour and cocoa powder one can quite easily create a replica of Tycho's rays. Even better examples are the man-made impact craters on the moon at the bottom of this page [] . One in particular, created by an Apollo 14 rocket stage, shows not only rays [] but also a central peak [] .

I also find this picture [] of the Sedan nuclear test quite telling. A nuclear explosion releases a large amount of energy in a small area much like an impact. Notice the arching columns of debris, each of which seems to have a unique shape and trajectory. It is quite easy to see how these would form rays as they collapse on the ground, and some seem to come from slightly off-center from the chaotic cloud of the explosion.

Electric Universe loonies (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 7 years ago | (#20491403)

As title.

When we (really) explore space (2, Interesting)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 7 years ago | (#20489893)

I kind of expect in the future when we have ships cheap/reliable enough for regular exploration of the solar system one of our future generations does something stupid by knocking some asteroid out of whack leading to a chain reaction that causes some big space catastrophe. Then we will have space traffic laws and all that other stuff.

Now wait a second... (1)

Schnoogs (1087081) | about 7 years ago | (#20489909)

how can they possibly deduce the trajectories of those asteroids? Maybe it's a coincidence.

Awfully Confusing For Us On Alpha Centauri (2, Funny)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | about 7 years ago | (#20489985)

Further evidence for the asteroid mass extinction theory has been discovered as a break in the main asteroid belt of our solar system.

This is just like slashdot, submitters and editors never thinking about those of us on extra-solar planets in the Andromeda Galaxy. Everyone in the Milky Way is so planetary-centric. Would adding the extra clarification take long? No, and it would save a lot of headaches... seriously, I've got six heads out here too, do you realize how much Tylenol©®(TM) it takes to kill the pain?

Re:Awfully Confusing For Us On Alpha Centauri (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20492655)

Parent poster must be a liar. Alpha Centauri is 4.37 light years away. In order to have posted his comment to this story in the timely manner that he did, he would have to be somewhere in our solar system to have recieved the transmission, and posted a reply about it.

uhhhh? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20490115)

cough uhhggbullshit

Re:uhhhh? (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | about 7 years ago | (#20490965)

And on what logical grounds do you base this eloquently worded rejection?

they just make the sh*t up! (2, Informative)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#20490429)

There's a brick missing from out back. Thats the brick that started global warming.

This is truly frightening... (1)

denttford (579202) | about 7 years ago | (#20490807) this pre-9/11 world [] .

70 years and five days to go.

so... it was an asteroid then? (0, Troll)

catmistake (814204) | about 7 years ago | (#20490971)

I'm sorry... when was it decided that an asteroid from the Asteroid Belt caused the mass extinction????? Is this canon now? Nothing seems to explain the periodic extinctions (~26 million years) as tidely (heh) as an undiscovered star (Nemesis). Nearly all stars are in binary or larger systems, single star systems are quite unique. I think there's a small star-sized mass nearby, and every 26 million years its orbit takes it close enough to the Oort cloud or Kuiper Belt to disrupt the crazy things in the outer rim, sending them spiraling towards the Sun. Nemesis deadly perigee sends enough projectiles cascading toward the sun that one usually hits the Earth... You'll see I'm right in about 12 million years, and then 26 million years after that... just you wait.

voids are the new black (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20491043)

So let me get this straight, dinosaurs became extinct because of an asteroid belt buckle?

I guess the earth got caught with it's pants down..

More likely (2, Funny)

Creepyguywithastick (934101) | about 7 years ago | (#20491119)

Sephiroth did it.

Freaky weird dream (1)

Dachannien (617929) | about 7 years ago | (#20491285)

I had this weird dream about a week ago, where I ran into these mask-wearing aliens whose masks were apparently life support devices (despite them being more like theater masks than conventional breathing masks). The reason they needed the masks was because 67 million years ago, they had colonized Earth, whose atmosphere at the time could support their form of life, but they needed to do some terraforming. Unfortunately, the terraforming resulted in catastrophic changes to the atmosphere that made the planet inhospitable to them. Coincidentally, those atmospheric changes also killed off the dinosaurs.

Anyway, I'm thinking of starting my own cult based on that dream. Anybody here have any advice?

Re:Freaky weird dream (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#20491615)

Yes, try to really understand this vision of yours, on a soul level, and I believe it will be guidance enough for the road ahead but just in case you need a little inspiration here are some pointers.

1) The Earth was habitable for these, assume that they are, near perfect aliens - perhaps call them Angel or something until something happened. Since the Angels are surely perfect it's likely that with a closer inspection you'll see your vision revealed to you that some other agency was involved in ruining the terraforming.

2) Masks are a great idea, they can filter out all the harmful elements in the atmosphere introduced by the Evil Angels and possibly also help communion with the real Angels who must still be out there somewhere watching and judging us. You can also sell masks in a variety of models to suit all pockets.

3) There's a lot of Eco Warriors who are ready to take on any message or warning about the dangers of ruining the eco system, they also like masks and some of them are rich celebrities so I'd suggest targeting this area first. Perhaps build up to the full shocking revelation of our ancient angelic protectors a la Scientology.

Basically I think you've got some powerful elements to work with, all you need is a bit of publicity, some hard work and an evangelical core of first believers. You can probably get onto most daytime TV programmes already if you push the mask angle and the amazing benefits ( not to mention stylish new fashion ) of the mask. You can get onto the Sunday Morning religious nuttery programs by a firm belief in Angels and if you can find any sort of quasi scientific evidence for the atmosphere ( which you surely can ) which can't have been created by natural causes then you'll have scientists and eco warriors sucked in hook line and sinker. I say go for it.

God created asteroids (3, Funny)

DragonTHC (208439) | about 7 years ago | (#20491607)

He also created hemorrhoids.

Saw this coming (1)

jsiren (886858) | about 7 years ago | (#20491709)

I tell ya, we should've gotten the asteroid suspenders.

Tycho Crater Origins (1)

hey0you0guy (1003040) | about 7 years ago | (#20492651)

I always thought that the Tycho Crater was formed when the Monolith touched down...

Sith Lord Vader (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20492805)

It was Lord Vader and his super Star Destroyer blasting the hole through while chasing the Falcon.

Screen Shot.... (1)

realsilly (186931) | about 7 years ago | (#20493269)

Screen shot or it didn't happen.
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