October 31st, 2015. Just in time for halloween, The Great Pumpkin is coming our way. No, I’m not talking about the pumpkins that you carve, or the hungry kids who will be coming to your door. I’m talking about an asteroid.
Dubbed “The Great Pumpkin”, this asteroid officially called “2015 TB145”, has a diameter of 400 meters. For a comparison, that’s about the size of two sports arenas. Luckily, scientists have confirmed that the Great Pumpkin won’t be hitting us this halloween. Should it hit us however, the asteroid would leave a big mark. According to CBC’s Bob McDonald, if the asteroid hit Scarborough Ontario, it would cause destruction all the way to Nova Scotia.
You might be thinking, “Why do I need to worry? We have the technology to prevent an asteroid hitting us!” And you would be right to think that. Richard Wainscot, the principal investigator of the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, says that we have a couple options when it comes to deflecting an asteroid. We could blast it with nuclear weapons or ram it with a heavy object to “deflect the orbit”.
However, neither of these methods would have worked if the Great Pumpkin had been on a path to hit the Earth. This is because the asteroid wasn’t spotted soon enough. In fact, The Great Pumpkin was only spotted on October 10th of this year. That’s incredibly short notice, considering scientists already know that the next big asteroid will be passing by Earth in 2027.
If the Great Pumpkin had been on a crash course with us, we would have had no options other than evacuation. Scientists would be able to predict exactly when and where the asteroid was going to land. You would just have to evacuate everyone from that area, which, in this case, would be about a 1700 km radius. We’re talking about millions of people who would have to pack up everything and move in the span of a couple weeks. Without a doubt, there would be casualties, quite possibly millions of people.
So why did it take so long to spot the Great Pumpkin? Most asteroids come from the asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. This one, however, cut through the plane of our solar system on a 40 degree angle. Telescopes can’t be looking everywhere at the same time. Since nobody was expecting an asteroid to be coming from this direction, no one was really looking. It was a fluke that the asteroid was even spotted.
I left this post as a draft on October 31st, not entirely convinced the asteroid wouldn’t hit us. I can confirm though as of November 5th that the scientists at NASA were indeed correct. We were not hit by an asteroid. Scientists did take advantage of the close-encounter though, using radar telescopes to produce some stunning images of the asteroid.
And don’t you fret. If this post has worried you about being killed by an asteroid, statistics show that you are far more likely to die in an earthquake, car crash, plane crash or flood.
(A small correction, after this article was written, the asteroid was classified as a dead comet.)