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Orbital path of asteroid near miss in 2002. Yah, that’s how close we came to nuclear winter and possible total destruction.

A visitor.


It’s not an asteroid. It’s an old piece of a Saturn rocket or something like that. We weren’t in any danger from this one.

Still cool though.

I’m curious what makes you believe this is not about an asteroid. Looking at the dates in the lower lefthand corner of the gif, it seems likely that this is a reconstruction of the path of asteroid 2002 MN, which came within 75,000 miles of Earth on June 14, 2002. There’s some more information about it at Wikipedia and New Scientist.

In light of the information there, the OP’s comment about “nuclear winter and possible total destruction” does sound over-the-top. 2002 MN was calculated to be about 80 meters across, large enough to have caused an explosion comparable to the Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908, but nothing like nuclear winter (unless a nuclear-weapons-equipped nation misidentified the asteroid’s impact as a nuclear attack and retaliated, unleashing a global nuclear war, which I guess is possible).

If you look at the plotted orbit, a Saturn rocket (or anything launched from Earth) seems really unlikely. The bulky parts of those never get very far from Earth, whereas this thing arrived from way out yonder, at least according to the gif.

Note that I didn’t investigate any of this until I saw your reblog questioning my initial reblog of the post, so thanks for giving me the incentive to do that. I could totally have been guilty of passing on a cool-but-bonkers Tumblr lie. On further investigation I think the asteroid part, if not the potential consequences, sounds pretty solid, but I was just lucky about that. In a sense that makes this post, like 2002 MN, a fortunate near-miss, not recognized by the party in jeopardy until after the fact. :-)

Found it!


Oh wow! I apologize for doubting your information (and, as is too often the case, for spreading disinformation of my own).

I thought you were saying that it was something like an early stage of an Apollo rocket, but in fact, as your NASA link explains, there’s a big-enough piece to account for this object’s brightness that does get launched far enough out to leave Earth orbit — the S-IVB third stage that boosts the spacecraft away from Earth on the trip to the moon, then gets jettisoned before the return journey.

That’s not as big as the presumed “asteroid” that the (older) article I found was talking about, but as your more-recent NASA article explains, the white paint of an expended S-IVB would make it appear brighter, such that the 60-foot-long structure could be mistaken for a larger asteroid. And the fact that the object had a spectrographic signature consistent with Apollo rockets’ titanium dioxide paint, and that Apollo 12’s S-IVB stage did escape Earth into an orbit that could have brought it back at the time of object J002E3, is ridiculously cool. And yes, if we assume that this was an expended Apollo S-IVB, then you are absolutely right that it would have been no danger to humanity even if it did impact Earth, since it would most likely have burned up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

Thank you again for passing on all this really cool information, and sticking with it even after I dismissed your recollection. Your info really was like J002E3 — except that after a couple of loops around my brain it finally managed to get past my planetary defenses and achieve re-entry. :-)

I wish the OP had included a link to the article you remembered (which appears to be where the gif came from). It would have saved a lot of confusion, at least on my part. But I guess “oh noez; nuclear winter!” made for a more-compelling post.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/1iASH7v.

Tags: spaceflight, tumblr lies, asteroids, apollo 12.

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