Aug 17, 2022
JERUSALEM WEATHER
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Pre-Purim surprise asteroid sneaks by NASA and hits the Earth.beforeEarth’s.

Before the great and terrible day of Hashem comes,* I will set portents in the sky and on earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke; Joel 3:3

At three meters wide, asteroid 2022 EB5 snuck past NASA’s planetary early-warning systems and impacted just north of Iceland on Friday. Due to its size, EB5 did no damage, burning up in the atmosphere.  And due to the remoteness of the area, there were no visual reports of its impact.

Unobserved fireball

Nonetheless, the ‘insignificant’ event would have been impressive had it been observed.  Moving at an estimated speed of about 11 miles per second, the relatively tiny asteroid generated a blast equivalent to two to three thousand tons of TNT, or three kilotons of energy. This meant that tiny EB5 generated an explosion equal to about one-fifth the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, or a magnitude 4.0 earthquake. These events are estimated to occur about ten times every year.

 

EB5 was first detected just two hours before impact by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky. Krisztián continued to observe the object, making ten observations soon after the discovery. NASA’s “Scout” impact hazard assessment system then calculated its trajectory, revealed it to be destined to strike Earth’s atmosphere, and thus alerted both the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

This made the event special as EB5 was just the 5th previously undetected asteroid to be discovered before impacting Earth. However, astronomers were slightly off in their calculations, predicting that EB5 would miss the Earth by 2,890 kilometers. 

But the accurate picture is a bit more alarming as three other asteroids slipped past our planet on the same day. One asteroid, 2015 DR215, measuring 910 feet across, was concerning. It missed, but it would have been catastrophic had it hit the Earth. 

NASA: tracking asteroids

NASA is concerned and is currently tracking around 20,000 near-Earth asteroids. NASA officials have said that an asteroid about 500 feet or larger with an orbit that brings it within 4.7 million miles of Earth is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid. \At the moment, scientists have identified more than 20,000 near-earth objects (NEO), and around 40 new ones are being discovered every week. Of the known NEOs, around 5,000 of these are classed as “potentially hazardous.” CNEOS estimated that a cataclysmic collision between an asteroid and the earth that threatens the future of civilization occurs on average once per 100,000 years. But thebeforeEarth’s. threat of unseen dangers lurking directly overhead is far more common than previously thought. Over 17,000 near-Earth asteroids remain undetected in our solar neighborhood.

Perhaps the most devastating asteroid impact in modern history took place near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River on 30 June 1908. Known as the Tunguska event, an explosion flattened an estimated 80 million trees over an area of 830 sq miles of forest, and eyewitness reports suggest that at least three people may have died in the event. It is classified as an impact event, even though no impact crater has been found; the object is thought to have disintegrated at an altitude of 3 to 6 miles rather than hitting the Earth’s surface. The Tunguska event is the most significant impact on Earth in recorded history, though much more significant impacts have occurred in prehistoric times. 

NASA is beginning to seriously consider the threat of a catastrophic impact as a planet-threatening possibility. In April, scientists and civil authorities from around the world gathered at the International Academy of Astronautics 6th Planetary Defense Conference. in College Park, Maryland. Also, the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan were published by the White House in June 2018, describing plans for such an eventuality.

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) was established in 2016 to detect any potentially hazardous object. Since the PDCO was established, at least four major impacts have been reported. Only three impact events have been successfully predicted in advance, usually by only a few hours.  Currently, predictions are mainly based on cataloging asteroids years before they are due to impact. This works well for larger asteroids as they are easily seen from a long distance but is ineffective for predicting smaller objects that can still be quite destructive.

Asteroids and the Messiah

The appearance of a bright star is explicitly described in the Bible as a sign presaging the arrival of the Messiah, as explained by the renowned medieval scholar Maimonides who 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

 

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