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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Phew! Did you feel the breeze?

About the size of a 10-story building is the way one news source described it. I am referring to the pretty big asteroid that narrowly missed the earth last Monday morning. According to CNN, the giant hunk of space gunk whizzed by just 38,000 miles from us... an incredibly close distance compared to space. When you think about it, that is a little less than twice-around the earth at the equator.

And when you consider that our space tracking capabilities can identify a object floating in orbit as small as 2 inches in diameter, it is surprising that we didn't even see it until two days before its pass-by. Of course, it was traveling toward us at an incredible speed. Listen... only Superman can destroy asteroids on two-days notice. We just sit here like soccer players defending a free kick... with our hands, figuratively of course, covering our genitalia.

Actually, space is, as we say, bigger than a breadbasket. It is, best we know now, 5-6 billion light years across. That is, 192,000 miles per second x 60 seconds in a minute x 60 minutes in an hour x 24 hours in a day x 365.3 days per year x 5-6 billion years. That number still boggles my mind. And, even more fascinating, there are an estimated 100 billion-billion stars bigger than our earth.

So what are the chances? Well, if there are only two flys buzzing randomly around in an area the size of the United States, there is a greater chance that they will collide than we would be hit by an asteroid of that size. Before you feel too comfortable though, consider that about a century ago, one blasted Siberia. On the other hand, the law of averages is now on our side.

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