Jon de Vos: Kicked in the Asteroid
April 10, 2009
“Do you have insurance?”
“Yes, but I have to get hit by a comet before it kicks in.”
Overhearing such an exchange got me to wondering about a question on everybody’s lips, “Where can I get some good comet insurance?”
You’ll remember what happened the last time the earth was threatened by a comet, back in 1998, as portrayed in the movie, “Deep Impact,” U.S. President Tom Beck, played by Morgan Freeman, had to announce that the seven-mile-wide “Wolf-Biederman” comet was about to make cornmeal mush out of our Northern Hemisphere. The world hiked up its collective britches and sent Robert Duvall and Tea Leoni to blow the offending space object into smithereens, wherever that is.
Now that turned out a lot better than the 1984, “Night of the Comet” when the earth passed through the tail of Halley’s comet and everybody died except some Valley Girls and rampant packs of mutant cannibals. What a mess! But seriously, when’s the last time you worried about getting smacked by a comet? You probably haven’t. We’re here today to raise comet and asteroid awareness.
What’s the difference? An asteroid is a metallic-based object in a mostly regular orbit around the sun. A comet is a rocky ball of ice that also orbits the sun but in a much longer elliptical path that goes outside the orbits of the planets.
Scientists are pretty convinced that some 65 million years ago, a big comet broke up into smaller pieces, hitting the earth like a shotgun blast. That’s the latest theory about why we don’t have pet pterodactyls and dinosaur petting zoos. The comet strike killed most, if not all, life on earth, nature’s clocks were reset and we started all over on that inexorable path that leads to Rush Limbaugh.
So that was then, there’s nothing to worry about now, right? On July 18, 1994, fragment G of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter with an impact of 6,000,000 megatons of TNT, approximately 600 times the world’s nuclear arsenal. That was just one piece of 21 that struck the planet over the course of a week.
Well, Jupiter’s pretty far away, right? Last March 1, at about midnight, a hundred foot wide asteroid dubbed 2009 DD45, whizzed by less than 45,000 miles overhead. That’s less than a fifth of the distance to the moon for an asteroid the same size as the Tunguska asteroid that destroyed 80,000,000 trees and nearly a thousand square miles in Siberia exactly 100 years ago. But we’d have years to prepare, right? Nope, last month astronomers gave us a scant 20 hours to brace for 2009 DD45’s impact and its orbit passes by the earth every 18 months. In 2004, a 30-foot rock missed us by a mere 4,000 miles. It’s just a matter of time.
So what do we do? Take advantage of the latest in personal anti-comet deflecting headgear, yours for a mere hundred dollars via return mail. Send me the money in small, unmarked bills and I will ship one to you today.
Yes, it’s true they resemble pie plates with holes and a string through them but actually they are incredibly tough and well worth a measly hundred bucks. Wouldn’t you rather have the peace of mind?
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