The conspiracy theory blogosphere has erupted once again in a frenzy of excitement after NASA confirmed that a massive asteroid measuring nearly two miles across will whiz past Earth on Saturday in what is being described as a “near earth event.”
And following the latest report from NASA, allegations of official cover-up have erupted in the conspiracy theory blogosphere after the agency appeared to try to hide information about the approaching asteroid by using a robot.txt file to instruct search engine crawlers not to index the relevant web page.
A robot.txt file, according to Google, “is a file at the root of your site that indicates those parts of your site you don’t want accessed by search engine crawlers… You only need a robots.txt file if your site includes content that you don’t want Google or other search engines to index.”
After noting the absence of references to asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10) on other NASA web pages, conspiracy theorists are asking why NASA is apparently trying, albeit half-heartedly, to hide the page that provides information about a massive asteroid set to whiz past Earth in less than 48 hours.
“You only need a robots.txt file if your site includes content that you don’t want Google or other search engines to index.”
The image below, released by NASA, is an animated illustration of the asteroid’s trajectory in space relative to Earth. It shows the path of asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10), first spotted 16 years ago, in its close approach to Earth on Saturday, October 10.
According to NASA, while the size of the asteroid is uncertain, it is estimated to be about 0.7 miles (1.1 km) to 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) across.
The asteroid is expected to zoom past Earth on Saturday at a distance of 15.5 million miles (25,228,800km), travelling at a speed of 40,000 miles per hour (approx. 64,000 km/hr).
NASA admits that asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10) is one of the largest to approach Earth in recent times, and according to the agency, although calculations of its trajectory indicate it will pass safely at nearly 16 million miles, NASA scientists are keeping a close eye on it.
Although, a distance of nearly 16 million miles appears a huge distance, it is a miss by a whisker on the astronomical scale.
Express reports that Bill Napier, professor of astronomy at the University of Buckinghamshire, warns that a slight incidental “nudge” due, for instance, to an unforeseen incident in space could change the asteroid’s course with serious consequences.
While assessments of the risk posed by loose cannons of asteroids in our system could easily be dismissed as conspiracy theory fear-mongering, the fact is that it alerts us to the reality that we live in a dangerously uncertain cosmic shooting gallery.
According to Napier, although the risk of asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10) hitting Earth is small, there is always a chance of an impact event from the asteroid or another.
“The danger is in the future if asteroids like this are nudged off their orbit they can effectively become missiles,” Napier said. “There are a lot of asteroids out there with the potential to be hazardous which have not been discovered.”
A direct impact by an asteroid in the size range of 86666 would fulfill the world destruction fantasies of online doomsday conspiracy theorists, being equivalent to millions of megatons of TNT that could wipe out billions of human lives. This explains the sudden surge of excited expectations in the conspiracy theory blogosphere following the disappointing failure of asteroid apocalypse fear-mongering that dominated the month of September and preceding months.
“If an asteroid the size of 86666 was to collide with Earth it would undoubtedly destroy the ozone layer, alter the climate and create tsunamis at least 91 meters high that would decimate coastal communities.”
While the conspiracy theory blogosphere has erupted with speculations about why NASA appears to have attempted to conceal information about the approaching massive asteroid, the agency continues with efforts to calm public fears, saying it does not know of any asteroids likely to make impact with Earth “in the foreseeable future.”
According to the Near-Earth Object Observation Program, otherwise known as “Spaceguard,” all “known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a 0.01% chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years.”
Meanwhile, NASA is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a project called Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA). The project is focusing on the asteroids Didymos and Didymoon, as part of efforts to learn how we may prevent the inevitable future impact.
[Images: NASA; Wikimedia]