NASA received radar images of a near-Earth asteroid that “buzzed” the Earth earlier in the month and its shape reminded a scientist of a familiar gaming dice. But not the more traditional six-sided cubes used in most games. No, this asteroid resembled the multi-sided dice from the popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
Phys.org reported this week that Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, a NASA tracking station in California, obtained the images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 on February 6 and 7, just as the near-Earth object hurtled past the Earth. NASA’s 70-meter (230-foot) antenna picked up the asteroid, capturing the dimensions of the space rock as it moved at roughly 11.2 kilometers per second (seven miles per second), passing by Earth at roughly 6.6 Lunar Distances (the distance between the Earth and the Moon), or 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers). Asteroid 2017 BQ6 was not round, oval, barbell-shaped, a rocky teardrop, or a lumpy potato. It was, oddly enough, large, blocky, angular.
According to Lance Benner, leader of the radar research program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the 660 feet (200 meters) asteroid kind of resembles a dice from Dungeons & Dragons game.
“The radar images show relatively sharp corners, flat regions, concavities, and small bright spots that may be boulders. Asteroid 2017 BQ6 reminds me of the dice used when playing Dungeons and Dragons. It is certainly more angular than most near-Earth asteroids imaged by radar.”
2017 BQ6 was one of three asteroids that “buzzed” the Earth in a nine-day period in early February that fit a special category. The trio was emblematic of a worrisome problem nagging the planet — all three asteroids had been discovered days prior to their fly-bys, not much time to sound a warning should any one — or all — of those space rocks have presented as an imminent impactor. In fact, the trio highlighted the constant peril in which Earth exists, and how a heretofore unknown object (depending upon its size, speed, and elemental make-up) could suddenly become a world-altering problem for which the governments and space agencies of Earth are ill-prepared.
To be more precise, 2017 BQ6 was discovered on January 26. It passed the Earth on February 6. Eleven days.
In February 2013, a meteor measuring at least 20 meters (66 feet) in diameter ripped through the sky over the Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia, detonated and split into dozens of smaller meteors, many of which made it to the ground. According to an assessment report in Science later that year, the air burst itself released energy equivalent to that of the yield of 400-500 kiloton nuclear weapon, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 26-33 times that of the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. The shockwave was released miles up in the atmosphere (29.7 kilometers, 18.5 miles) but still managed to do damage to some 7,200 buildings and injure nearly 1,500 people.
The Chelyabinsk superbolide was undetected prior to its entry — and subsequent detonation — into the Earth’s atmosphere.
To date, there is no actual asteroid defense system in place anywhere on the planet that might, should the Earth have a few days to respond to the imminent threat of a meteor/asteroid strike, be capable of mounting some type of city- or planet-saving mitigation. In fact, until the United States issued such a plan in the waning days of the Barack Obama administration, there was no official protocol to deal with an impending catastrophic asteroid or meteor impact.
Scientists have been calling for space agencies and the world’s governments to take the matter a bit more seriously. Back in December, NASA scientist Joseph Nuth warned that there was nothing that could be done even if an asteroid or comet were detected as much as five years in advance (the time it takes for the launch of the average spacecraft). And, he noted, the Earth was about due for a dinosaur-killer impactor, relatively speaking. As the Inquisitr reported, Nuth himself has suggested an “interceptor rocket” that could be readied and launched within a year’s notice.
As governments continue to ignore a very obvious threat from a universe that is unconcerned with the Earth’s levels of preparedness when the laws of physics sends a space rock hurtling toward the planet, there is irony in the fact that the next extinction event could be kicked off by a massive asteroid that might actually resemble a giant dice.
[Featured Image by Kaesler Media/Shutterstock]