It’s been a pretty exciting week to be an asteroid researcher: you’d think the sky was falling! Really, it was just a confluence of some rowdy neighbors checking in on earth asking, “How’s that space program coming?” An ordinary chondrite meteorite exploded over Russia, and later that day a 150-foot-wide piece of spacerock skimmed 17,000 miles above the earth, just ducking inside the orbits of geostationary satellites.
We had nothing to do with either: the Russia bolide was detected maybe seconds beforehand by some satellites; 2012 DA14 was too low in our sky for Arecibo to observe.
The media guy here is still getting calls, almost a week later. Univision came by, Dish Network wanted to interview someone…
What are we doing in the midst of all this? Regularly scheduled observations of asteroid (99942) Apophis, everyone’s favorite potentially hazardous asteroid that we’ve known about for almost nine years now. None of these recently discovered raucous interlopers for us this week, pshaw. Even so, the events of last week underscore the importance of “finding them before they find us” and commercial solutions to asteroid problems.