If you haven’t been following the news, an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool is going to come close to the Earth this week. How close? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,500 miles.
I know what you’re thinking and, you’re right, 17,500 is a pretty big number. But when you’re talking about distances in space, this is about as close as you want to come to an asteroid. Consider this: Asteroid 2012DA14 will be 14 times closer to the Earth than our moon. It will even be closer to the earth than television, weather and communications satellites.
Bill Nye (yeah, the Science Guy) said this passing should be a wake-up call to the danger the Earth faces. If DA14 were to hit the Earth, it would strike with the force of about 2.4 million tons of dynamite. Nye said that would level any major metropolitan area. Goodbye, New York, Beijing, Los Angeles, etc.
Nye said ours is the first generation with the capabilities to find these asteroids and potentially stop the Earth from being struck again. That’s right, I said struck again. We know of at least two times in the past when the planet has been struck by big-ass space rocks. These are not small events and would be totally devastating to where ever they hit. The last time the Earth took a shot in the chops was in 1908 when an asteroid or comet exploded over Siberia, leveling 80 million trees over 830 square miles.
While it is a relief that we won’t have to worry about a major city becoming a crater with this asteroid, what no major news outlet is talking about is whether the nearness of DA14 means we should worry about the onset of a zombie apocalypse.
Perhaps most famously depicted in “Night of The Comet,” comets, asteroids and meteors have been the cause of zombie outbreaks in a number of films. The good news is that this is not very likely for the reason that we are able to live on Earth at all: our atmosphere.
The truth is we don’t need a nearby asteroid or comet to emit radiation. Space is already full of the stuff and its bombarding the Earth every minute of every day. The magnetosphere serves as our first line of defense, deflecting most space radiation away from the surface of the planet. Radiation that gets through this level is subsequently absorbed by the inner layers of the atmosphere, meaning only the weak and relatively safe forms of radiation actually reach us on the ground.
On a scale on 1 to 10, with 1 being impossible and 10 being certain, the likelihood that a comet or rogue asteroid will cause the zombie apocalypse is a 2 at most.