While the earth-bound fret over the very real threat of the coronavirus pandemic, NASA tracks rocks, sometimes even small mountains, that whiz past our planet. Though near-misses are measured in hundreds of thousands of miles, the threat of a catastrophic impact is very real.
With very little ado, NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which detects and predicts the trajectories of near-Earth space objects (NEOs) announced last week they were tracking at least four asteroids. Though it is true that two have already passed without entering the atmosphere, several more are headed our way and expected to (hopefully) pass by in the near future.
The first asteroid, identified as 2020 FK, passed by on Saturday night. A relatively tiny rock, 2020 FK has an estimated diameter of about 43 feet, which makes it the smallest in the group, but it is travelling at a blistering 23,000 miles an hour and will pass by at a distance of 845,000 miles.
Right behind it was 2020 FS, slightly larger at about 56 feet wide, and hurtling towards Earth at a speed of roughly 9,600 miles an hour. It passed within two million miles of the earth.
2020 DP4, the biggest of the lot, has a diameter of 180 feet and is travelling at 18,000 miles an hour. It will pass within 840,000 miles of our planet.
The final asteroid of the group is named 2020 FF1. Measuring about 49 feet wide, it is heading towards our planet at a speed of 29,000 miles an hour. The final near miss will come within 443,000 miles. The last two will be passing by on Sunday night.
Though NASA assures the public the trajectories do not endanger the planet, trajectories can change.
NASA is also tracking a substantially larger threat. Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 is currently curving around the sun and will approach within four million miles, or about 16 times the Earth-moon distance, on April 28 on what is officially labeled an “Earth close approach.” 2.5 miles across, or roughly half the size of Mount Everest, OR2 will make this relatively close pass to the Earth at 19,461 miles per hour at the end of next month. The largest asteroid astronomers expect to approach the Earth this year, NASA warned that it is “large enough to cause global effects if [it] impacted Earth.”
NASA discovers roughly 30 NEOs every week but does not catch sight of all the rocks floating around above our heads. Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood. The Earth, like every other planetary body, crosses paths with asteroids on a frequent basis. But unlike many smaller planets, the Earth’s atmosphere not only protects the surface, burning up intruders as they fall. In addition, the atmosphere wears away at any resulting craters, erasing any signs of collision. There are currently over 100 ring-like structures on Earth recognized as definite impact craters ranging in diameter from a few meters up to about 8 kilometers.. Most of them are not obviously craters, their identity masked by heavy erosion over the centuries, but the minerals and shocked rocks present make it clear that impact was their cause.
Even so, a 10-meter body typically has the kinetic energy of about five nuclear warheads of the size dropped on Hiroshima, however, and the shock wave it creates can do considerable damage even if nothing but comparatively small fragments survive to reach the ground.
Ovadia referred to Nibiru, a star that will appear in the end of days that will wreak havoc but not destroy the world.
“As Nibiru approaches, more asteroids will appear,” Ovadia said. “Nibiru is described in Jewish sources as a star, not as an asteroid. But as it approaches, it pushes asteroids ahead of it like a ship pushes water in front of it.”
Ovadia noted that these celestial phenomena will be accompanied by other catastrophes; earthquakes, plagues, volcanoes, and even disease. This intensive period will spare no one. He noted that the coronavirus pandemic is spreading panic among the aspects of society that are most insulated from its effects.
The appearance of a star is explicitly described in the Bible as a sign presaging the arrival of the Messiah.
Ovadia explained that the renowned medieval scholar Maimonides described the prophecy of Balaam in the Bible as referring to astronomical phenomena presaging the Messiah.
What I see for them is not yet, What I behold will not be soon: A star rises from Yaakov, A scepter comes forth from Yisrael; It smashes the brow of Moab, The foundation of all children of Shet. Numbers 24:17
The Zohar, the basis of Jewish esoteric learning, describes the Star of Jacob in great detail.
“After forty days, when the pillar rises from earth to heaven in the eyes of the whole world and the Messiah has appeared, a star will rise up on the east, blazing in all colors, and seven other stars will surround that star. And they will wage war on it.”
Ovadia emphasized that it is impossible to precisely predict the arrival of the Messiah but he noted that the two-month period containing the holidays of Purim and Passover is particularly auspicious.
Taking this into account, the flurry of astral arrivals combined with the powerful events down here on earth seem as full of portent as never before.