In the morning, 25 years before the asteroid was supposed to land, I had to ask: which bike is mine and which of the bins is for 1 PETE containers? :-) Incidentally, this story is dead because the impact probability dropped to 10^-5 in the afternoon of December 27th, 2004 - as was expected - but nevertheless it may still be fun to read how the story looked before it disappeared. The text below is obsolete, but have fun:
The probability than an asteroid named 2004 MN4 of around 390 meters (previously reported as 440 and then 380 meters) will hit Earth is estimated to be around 2.7 percent right now. It carries the number 4 on the Torino scale - clearly the highest rating of all such objects ever observed because no previous object has ever been above 1! However, there is still a 97% likelihood that the estimated probability will start to decrease soon, as the observations become more accurate; in fact, the probability has already reached 2.4 percent, then dropped to 2.2 percent, before jumping to 2.7 percent. However, it may also continue to grow...
I hope that you're not superstitious because the possible colission will take place on Friday, April 13th, 2029. According to my calculations, it could occur at 9:07 pm (Universal Time), and this is enough for you to figure out which place on Earth will it roughly land at.
We may want to produce some more nukes and make them ready for the unexpected application - splitting such an asteroid into pieces. Actually in the case that the probability won't decrease below 1 percent in 4 months, or if the Torino classification jumps above 4 (to the orange or red zone), I would endorse an immediate action - just send a couple of H-bombs to that asteroid and break it in two halves - even if it were just a training. If it does not work, we must send a better mission that will drill a hole in it and put H-bombs in the hole. The earlier you deflect such a thing, the cheaper it is. According to an Australian "astronomy educator", if an asteroid is made of stone, it will mostly evaporate in the atmosphere. Most of the commentators on this blog however agreed that the atmosphere is clearly unable to destroy an asteroid as large as 2004 MN4. So the impact won't be too different as the impact of an iron type asteroid whose colission would be equivalent to 100 Hydrogen bombs - over one thousand of megatons of TNT.
It's not a big deal on the global scale. The previous large asteroid that collided with Earth 20,000 years ago was 100 meters in diameter - which is just by a factor of 60 smaller volume than the expected one - and it only created a 1 kilometer large crater in Arizona. Moreover, there are only 38 potentially hazardous close encouters between now and 2079. ;-)
But sure, I know. The most serious threat are not earthquakes or asteroids, but a temperature rising by half a degree that could make some sissy liberals whose parents and grandparents were already liberals feel a little bit too warm!
- Incidentally, our homeless readers from Toronto should know about the extreme cold weather alert. Also, a polar cold air and snow is expected in the whole Tunisia, Africa - the 2004th hottest December since Jesus Christ. Well, it's fair because South Texas shattered records with its 13 inches of snow and a cold wave also grips northern India (Chandigarh improved their record cold temperature) as well as Australia and the state of Indiana that has also recorded a record cold for a Christmas, namely minus 21 degrees, which is slightly better than the new record minus 17 degrees in Findlay, Ohio or the new record in Paducah, Kentucky. But the people in Africa and America should follow the example of the Korean soccer players who played despite the "biting cold weather". Enough of today's proof of the chilling reality of the global warming theory. (Global warming refers to all places except for 1/26 of the continents - namely those that start with an "A": Antarctica, America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Europe is just reasonably chilly.) These isolated episodes cannot change anything about the fact that the year 2004 has already been scientifically declared, in advance, to be the 4th hottest year since the Big Bang. It's the advantage of the scientific climate models that you don't have to observe reality anymore! :-)
Happy rest of holidays!