TV Asteroid Science
Observations from a broadcast film.....
- Asteroids travel through space making a noise like a powerful but subdued engine.
- Asteroids are usually locked into orbits, but if a comet comes by, they can be bumped out of their rut and become dangerously unstable.
- It's only the fact that everything is locked into an orbit which prevents collisions in our solar system. Any asteroid that gets loose is certain to crash into Earth within a matter of hours.
- It's just barely possible to evacuate Kansas City to a distance of 100 miles in 48 hours. This requires lots of airplanes. It also requires martial law, so that "looters will be arrested on sight". (Have they no mercy?) With 30+ hours to go, people will panic in the streets and run around at random.
- A mile-wide asteroid can mostly burn up in the atmosphere, causing it to do only a relatively small amount of damage (bursting a dam) when it strikes.
- A river from a burst dam can exactly keep pace with a pickup truck for several minutes. It will then obligingly pause as the pickup truck turns around and goes in another direction.
- When a raging river washes over a pickup truck on a bridge, the bridge won't be damaged, the truck won't be swept off the bridge, and people in the open back of the truck won't be swept away.
- A four-mile-wide nickel asteroid (which would mass about a trillion tons) can be destroyed -- literally destroyed, so that nothing remains -- by three airplane-mounted lasers.
- But with only two airplane-mounted lasers, it instead instantly explodes into thousands of pieces. Astronomers are very surprised that it wasn't literally destroyed.
- Laser beams are easily visible in space.
- Incoming asteroids spend several minutes in Earth's atmosphere.
- Asteroids made of softer or more volatile stuff than nickel will harmlessly burn up in the atmposphere regardless of size.
- Asteroids that land in the ocean will do no damage regardless of size.
- Asteroids are discovered by astronomers peering directly through their telescopes in brightly lit observatories. Whatever they see will appear on computer monitors, however.
- Asteroid positions are reported in plainly audible 75 BPS Baudot teletype signals.
- Oddly, there will be no dog to be rescued at the last possible moment. Maybe only tornadoes and volcanoes come equipped with dogs. Would you settle for goldfish?