Jan 24, 2008

Is 2007 TU24 A Wake Up Call?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks, space

On January 29th, 2008, Near Earth Object 2007 TU24 will intersect Earth’s orbit at the startling proximity of only 0.0038AU — or 1.4 lunar distances from our planet. According to the resources I reviewed, this NEO represents the closest known approach to Earth until 2027, assuming no more surprises like the 2007 TU24, which was discovered on October 11th, 2007.

That an asteroid won’t strike is an assumption we can’t afford to make. 2007 TU24 will not impact the planet but may pass through a portion of Earth’s magnetosphere. We can’t predict the repercussions of this transit with any certainty at this time. However, the possibilities range from no effect to potentially catastrophic changes to weather, tectonic plate movement, the oceans, and more.

Some might say that we do not need to be concerned — that this kind of near miss (and let’s be frank here — in the vastness of even our solar system, 1.4 lunar distances from Earth is a near miss) is a freak occurrence. Don’t be so sure. One day later — that’s right, on January 30th, it was thought possible — one might even say reasonably likely — that another asteroid would strike our second nearest celestial neighbor, Mars.

Recent updates based upon more detailed information about the path of asteroid 2007 WD5 have concluded that the odds of an impact occurring have now dropped to one in ten thousand, making an impact exceptionally unlikely. However, our ability to identify objects less than 100 meters across is insufficient to provide us with enough time to do anything aside from evacuating the regions likely to be impacted by a collision with an incoming NEO.

More than one expert has stated that NEOs represent one of the most pressing potential mega-disasters threatening human — or even all — life on Earth. Yet, solving this problem is within the capabilities of our technology. Between better early detection and developing a meaningful defensive strategy, protecting humanity from this threat is possible. All we need is the funding and the mandate from the people to secure the required resources.


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. robomoon says:

    Prevent the impact of a NEO?

    1st scenario: prevent impact. 100 percent of humanity survives. 200 years later, humanity has lowered biodiversity very much. 400 years later, humanity is getting extinct because of war and insufficient natural resources.

    2nd scenario, do not prevent impact. 30 percent of humanity survives and biodiversity is getting much lower too. 100 years later, humanity is growing again. 10000 years later, biodiversity is getting better and humanity still exists.

    3rd scenario, announce that you are able to prevent the impact of a great asteroid. Because of an accident, you miss to deflect a smaller asteroid on time. The country where the impact of the smaller asteroid would occur must be evacuated. 70 percent of humanity survives after the impact. Many people are upset that the impact happened while you had rockets to deflect it. Chaos and terror reigns which causes humans to start global war. 50 years later, humanity is getting extinct, mainly because of war.

    To prevent what? That is the question.

  2. Michael G.R. says:

    We definitely need to take the risk from NEOs more seriously. That’s why I educated myself a bit about them and wrote some of what I found here:

    Near Earth Objects and Asteroids: Are We Whistling in the Dark?.

    I’m happy that Orbit@Home ( has got some NASA funding. According to the latest update, they’ll starting work next March. It makes a lot of sense to use a vast distributed computing network to try to track as many NEOs as possible, and having the public helping is another good way to spread the word (in the same way that, for example, Folding@Home is teaching lots of people about protein biology).

  3. Michael G.R. says:

    I thought this was important enough, I wrote my own post about it:

    Near Earth Objects: We Can’t Beat the Odds Forever

    I linked here, of course. Thanks for your post, and keep up the good work at LF.

  4. John Boyd says:

    Was TU24 visable from Florida, close to the sun, at 1430 hrs on January 28th?