If #Asteroid Ford Hit The Earth, Would It Make a Sound?

On November 6, 2013 by Mike

NASA – Composite of 13 Eta Aquarid meteors.

Well, since 13852 Ford (the asteroid formerly known as 1999 XM96) is a main-belt asteroid, it won’t hit the Earth. Any other questions?

Let’s, for a moment, suspend our disbelief and assume that a similar near-Earth asteroid that we “have never seen or doesn’t exist” does impact the Earth’s atmosphere. What then? Does it come crashing to the ground in a flaming mess? Does it take down everything in its path or just fizzle in the atmosphere? My money is on the latter. That it would make a great spectacle of itself at the time, and then be quickly forgotten when something bigger comes along.

Since asteroid Ford (no relation to Toronto’s Rob Ford) is a rather small asteroid at about 5-m or so in diameter, it really wouldn’t pack much of a punch. Sure, it would talk a mean talk but, when it came down to it, we could only expect it to carry an energy equivalent to about 6.8kT (less than 1/2 a Hiroshima atomic bomb). Not much in the grand scheme of things (unless, of course, it was trailed by a bigger ‘brother’). In short, it would appear as a pretty spectacular daylight fireball and likely burst at an altitude of about 35km. Large pieces would likely survive to the ground but they would fall at their terminal velocity (not cosmic velocity). So, we’d have meteorites to pick up!

A good example of a similarly-sized chunk of rock impacting the Earth is the Tagish Lake fall on the morning of January 18th, 2000. The fireball was witnessed by hundreds (if not thousands) of people doing the things that people normally do on a cold morning in the arctic. Which, as far as I can tell, is drinking tea, driving to work, and/or impersonating Elvis. Anyway, the event was, to say the least, quite memorable for all who saw it first-hand as well as those who picked up meteorites in the months following the fall. The frequency of an event like this? About once every 2.5 years. Did it make a sound? Yes.

So, there you have it. If asteroid Ford was, in fact, an Earth-crossing asteroid and it impacted the Earth, it would make a sound. Anything else?

P.S. Not only is there an asteroid Elvis, but there is also an asteroid rocknroll. Both, are just slightly bigger than Ford. Cool.


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