Fun_People Archive
25 Apr
Our fatal date with Eros

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 96 13:06:59 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: Our fatal date with Eros

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Forwarded-by: Jim Thompson <jim@SmallWorks.COM>
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	Our fatal date with Eros

By Adrian Berry

The asteroid Eros, 22 miles in diameter and made largely of iron, is
expected to crash into Earth at 100,000 mph, killing every human being.

But this catastrophe will not happen for at least 100,000 years, leaving
us plenty of time to make plans to stop it, say three scientists in
today's Nature.

Eros does not at present cross the Earth's orbit, and circles the Sun
between Earth and Mars. But its orbit is constantly changing by minute
amounts because it is gravitationally influenced by all the other planets
except Pluto.

A team led by Prof Paolo Farinella, of the University of Pisa in Italy,
has done a computer simulation of Eros's changing orbit over the next two
million years. The conclusion is that an eventual collision with our
planet is "likely". This event, the team says, will bring about a
"significant hazard to the future of human civilisation".

Another expert on asteroid impacts, Prof James Scotti, of the University
of Arizona, puts the point more strongly. "There is not the slightest
chance that any human being living on Earth at that time could survive
the catastrophe," he says . A collision with Eros, because of its metal
content, would be four times more violent than the collision with an
asteroid or comet 65 million years ago that killed most of the dinosaurs.
It would have the same effect as several full-scale nuclear wars taking
place simultaneously."

It would make no difference whether Eros struck land or sea. It would
gouge out huge chunks of the magma beneath the planet's crust. Massive
clouds of dust would fill the atmosphere, blocking the Sun's light and
causing a "cosmic winter" of global sub-freezing temperatures that would
last many years.

But Prof Scotti says: "If our descendants have about 100 years warning of
the impact, they will probably be able to prevent it. Their most likely
course is not to blow up Eros with a nuclear bomb, since this would merely
change the asteroid into dangerous splinters, but focus concentrated
sunlight on it to deflect its course and push it into a slightly different

Ironically, a NASA probe called NEAR - Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous -
is now on its way to visit Eros. One scientist said: "Few people realise
that Eros is planning to return the visit."

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