- Near-earth object 243 Ida; not on track to buzz Earth. (NASA)
Wait, we don't have shields? Eh, no worries, this probably isn't a big deal.
From Friday to Saturday, a trio of space rocks will whiz close to the Earth. In this case, "close" means the nearest asteroid will miss the planet by about 3.6 million kilometers. Still, fireball fanatics are on the alert. The good folks over at Lunar Meteorite Hunters posted recently:
Projected NEO [Near-Earth Object] debris activity associated with potential Earth meteor encounters. I expect that we will see possible increased bolide /fireball /meteor activity from 20JULY ~ 26JUL2011 just prior to or just after closer encounters with NEOs (2007 RQ17) and (2007 DD). At time of this post there will still be more NEOs discovered so updates are expected. Cameras ready!
So what exactly are these flying balls of space junk? Here's the lineup, courtesy of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program website:
2007 RQ17, a chunk of interplanetary stuff up to 200 meters across.
2011 MW1, a hard-to-pin space brick chugging along at 9.98 km/second.
2007 DD, whose Google results are pretty thrilling.
High-speed objects such as these are usually composed of the same material that went into creating inner planets like Mercury, Mars and Earth. They pass through the neighborhood on a regular basis. NASA likes to keep an eye on them because, well, you never know when nature might decide to go all Michael Bay on us. If one takes a bead on our home planet, their are contingency plans such as nuclear strikes and sending a robot up to nudge one's orbit safely away. However, NASA does state:
Although Hollywood has created some colorful methods for stopping an object that is on a collision path with Earth, no government agency, national or international, has been tasked or accepted the responsibility to stop such an asteroid, should one be discovered.
Time to get on that, somebody?