Four items appear below:

1 Asteroids and Their Impact                         #62   Anonymous
2 Asteroid Data OK...                                      #63  J H Williams
3 Response to Williams                                  #64   Anonymous
4 Brief Reports – Energy Units Debate         #63   Editor
 


  


ASTEROIDS
AND THEIR IMPACT

Anonymous

(Investigator 62, 1998 September)

"And the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea…" (Revelation 8:8)

ABSTRACT

The Bible says that killer stones and fire – even worldwide fire – can come from the sky. Scientists – including geologists, paleontologists and astronomers – chose "narrowness of vision".  Most denied until 1872 that stones fall from heaven, denied until 1980 the possibility of planet-wide catastrophe, and didn't realize until the late 1980s the threat of global fire.
The history of scientific research into asteroids and comets is summarized, asteroid numbers are estimated, recent impacts on Earth and near misses listed, energy calculations explained, major craters listed, and relevant Bible verses considered.
Ideas which used to be crank religion now influence allocation of $billions for research.  Resistance to them caused delay which endangers the human race.
 

STONES DON'T FALL FROM THE SKY

In 1768 French peasants reported seeing a stone fall from the sky.  The French Academy of Sciences sent Lavoisier (1743-1794) – the "father of modern chemistry" – to investigate. He concluded the peasants were lying or mistaken because stones simply don't fall from the sky.

Two hundred stones, some over 1 kilogram in weight,  rained on Sienna, Italy on June 16, 1794.  A 22 kg stone dropped onto a Yorkshire village on December 13, 1795.

Nevertheless, the first scientific account of stones from the sky by E F F Chladni in 1794 was rejected as ridiculous.

In April 1803 thousands of stones dropped over an area of 11km by 4km in France the heavier stones weighing 9 kg.  This time the French Academy sent astronomer Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774-1862). He confirmed the cosmic origin but was received skeptically.

A huge fall of  "meteorites" in 1872 finally convinced scientists.
 

LARGE ROCKS DON'T FALL FROM THE SKY

The idea that large rocky objects (asteroids) occasionally hit Earth and influence its geology and life remained rejected until the 1980s. This writer supported the idea in a university science essay in the 1970s citing the book  Bombarded Earth  (Rene Gallant 1964) – and got criticized.

Catastrophism, including  impacts of asteroids, was still considered unscientific. It contradicted Uniformitarianism – first advanced by James Hutton in  Theory of the Earth (1785) and  elaborated  by  Sir Charles Lyell in  Principles of Geology  (1830-33).

Lyell argued that  all geological features can be explained by gradual changes being observed – via wind, water, ice, sedimentation, etc. He rejected notions of impacting extraterrestrial objects. Text books on geology and paleontology followed Lyell's paradigm. Until the 1960s lunar craters were explained as having volcanic origins.

Around 1880 British astronomer Richard Proctor (1837-1888) attributed lunar craters to rocks from space but was disregarded.

Daniel Barringer, mining engineer, spent 26 years until his death in1929 trying to prove a rock from space caused the 1½ km wide Meteor Crater in Arizona. The geological establishment remained biased. In Popular Astronomy of December 1945 geologist H Darton still denied the crater's extraterrestrial cause.

In the 1930s geologist Otto Stutzer addressed the German Geological Society and attributed the geology around Nordlingen, Germany, to an asteroid impact. The geologists laughed.

Maverick astronomers began estimating impact rates on Earth. Fletcher Watson (USA) started in 1941. His conclusions were met skeptically.

Ralph Baldwin in The Face of the Moon (1949) argued that the Moon's surface indicated what also happened to Earth!  In 1956 Eugene Shoemaker of the US Geological Survey in Arizona proved Meteor Crater was caused by an asteroid impact.  Also in 1956 M W De Laubenfels of Oregon State University suggested that the dinosaur extinction might be due to asteroid impact.

Harold Urey (1973), an American geochemist, showed that tektites – melted rocks caused by impacts – have ages close to ages of geological boundaries.

In 1979-1980 orthodox scientific belief began to change.  Luis and Walter Alvarez provided geological evidence that an asteroid impact destroyed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In 1990-92 the "smoking gun" was identified as a buried crater 300 km wide in Central America. Several smaller craters formed near the same time suggesting multiple impacts occurred!

Chapman & Morrison (Mercury 1990) wrote:

The recognition that impacts have taken place on the Earth, and that they have the potential to do great damage to the ecology of our planet, is a new idea.  Twenty five years ago such concepts would have seemed absurd to most geologists, and even a decade ago their implications were only beginning to diffuse into the scientific world. (pp. 21-22)
And future catastrophes, which dwarf even nuclear holocaust are inevitable… (p. 25)
Magazine articles with provocative headings like Fire from the stars could spell global disaster (New Scientist 1994 March 26) show that the idea of asteroid impacts influencing Earth is now scientific. An actual bombardment of another planet, Jupiter, by 21 mountain-sized objects occurred in 1994!! (Hecht 1994 July 30)

Chapman and Morrison (Sky & Telescope 1990) asked: "So how could geologists have neglected impact catastrophes for the past century?"

One answer was: "the narrowness of vision of scientists, who are immersed in their specialties."
 

ASTEROIDS, COMETS, METEORS, METEORITES

Asteroids are rocky/stony objects orbiting in Space.  Billions orbit the Sun in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The largest are Ceres 1,000km, Pallas 535km, Vesta 500km, Hygiea 430km.

In 1951 Estonian astronomer E J Opik showed that most asteroids last millions of years and eventually collide with a planet or leave the Solar System. In 1977 a 300km asteroid named 2060 Chiron which crosses the orbits of Saturn and Uranus was discovered. Calculations indicated it will enter the inner Solar System in under a million years. Since the Solar System is 5 billion years old such findings implied a source from which asteroids are renewed.

Comets are streams of rock, hydrocarbons and ice. Comets with orbits that approach the Sun will have their volatile materials vaporized into a cloud of gas which makes the comet visible. (Kaplan 1997 March) Gradually with hundreds of successive orbits the gases burn away and the comet loses its glow leaving a stream of orbiting material indistinguishable from asteroids. Yet new brightly glowing comets do appear and known comets like Halley's Comet regularly reappear glowing in the night sky. This again implies a source from which Earth-approaching comets are replenished.

So-called "Scientific Creationists" rejected the idea of replenishment and instead argued for a young, 10,000-year-old Universe!  For example:

"… the reason we still have short-period comets is because the universe is too young for them to have all disintegrated." (Wieland 1986)

In 1951 Gerard P Kuiper, a Dutch-American astronomer, postulated that the outer Solar System contains numerous small orbiting bodies – the "Kuiper Belt".  In 1992 the first object was discovered and by mid 1996 the number was 32. (Luu & Jewitt 1996 May)  The inner edge of the Kuiper Belt corresponds with the orbit of Neptune. (Luu & Jewitt 1996)  The Kuiper Belt may have 10 billion objects – asteroids and comets – larger than 10km and 35,000 larger than 100km! (Crosswell 1995) This dwarfs and outnumbers the asteroids of the Asteroid Belt.

Dutch astronomer Jan H Oort argued in 1950 that there's a vast cloud of comets at the edge of the Solar System and extending 1/5 of the distance to the next star.  Some are dislodged at intervals and move inwards.

It's now believed that the Oort Cloud stocks long-period comets which take centuries to orbit the Sun and the Kuiper Belt has short-period comets. (Luu & Jewitt 1996)  The gravity of Neptune slowly erodes the inner part of the Kuiper Belt and sends some objects toward the inner Solar System and others outward into distant Space. (Luu & Jewitt 1996 May;  Davies J 1996 April 13;  Gehrels 1996 March)

Meteorites are pieces of rock and iron that fall to Earth from Space. A shower of stones fell in Chihuahua, Mexico, in February 1969. An estimated 26,000 meteorites heavier than 100 gram fall per year. A few originated from the Moon or from Mars. Most came from the Asteroid Belt. (Hutchinson & Graham 1992)

Meteorites from Mars were blasted off Mars by massive asteroid impacts and traveled in Space until hitting Earth. (Talcott 1993)  Similarly meteorites from the Moon were blasted off the Moon by asteroid strikes.

The number of meteorites actually retrieved was 2,600 by 1972 – 2,000 of these through the work of Harvey Nininger who spent 50 years persuading people to look for them.  A further 10,000 were subsequently found in Antarctica from 1970-1990.

Meteors are pieces which enter Earth's atmosphere at great speed, are heated to luminosity and become visible as streaks of light or shooting stars. Some are sporadic. Others come in showers which recur at regular times. The debris causing them are remains of old comets. Showers of meteors have been known since ancient times. (Miller 1994 June/July) Some as in 1799, 1833 & 1866 were spectacular – "thick as snow flakes".

Cosmic dust – dust from Space – also falls to Earth. An estimated 10,000 tons settles each year. (Dixon, McDonnell & Carey 1985)

The Oort Cloud, Kuiper Belt, Asteroid Belt and other small stuff moving through the Solar System are leftover material from the Solar System's formation 5 billion years ago. The Sun and planets formed when a large disc of revolving gas and material began to collapse and join together into larger bodies.  Impacts of comets, asteroids, dust etc., are simply continuations of the original sun-and-planet-building process at much lower intensity. (Henbest 1991 August)
 

MORE ABOUT ASTEROIDS

Asteroids are discovered by taking long-exposure photos of patches of the sky at night or by comparing exposures taken at different times. (Hecht 1991 Sept. 7)  Since 1990 "charge coupled devices" – electronic light detectors coupled to computers which compare images taken at various times – have sped up the research. "Spacewatch observers may find as many as 600 asteroids a night." (Gehrels 1996)

 
ASTEROID SIZE  NUMBER (Inner Solar System)
over 400 km
over 200 km
over 100 km
over 30 km
over 1 km
                 4
                30
              250
           1,000
100,000,000 (estimated)

Occasionally the gravity of Jupiter ejects asteroids from the Asteroid Belt and their changed orbits may cross the Earth's orbit. Chapman & Morrison (Sky & Telescope 1990) supplied a list of 72 "Earth Crossing Asteroids". Eugene Shoemaker and Eleanor Helin started the first systematic search for ECAs in1973 when only 12 were known. They discovered about half of the 128 known by 1991. Of the 128 ECAs 77 were between 1 and 5km across, the rest smaller.

Estimates made around 1990 for ECAs of different sizes were:
 

Above 1 km 
2,100
Above 500 meters
10,000
Above 100 meters
320,000
Above   20 meters
100,000,000
Above   10 meters
200,000,000


As time passes the estimates get bigger. A report in The Advertiser put  ECAs above 1km at 25,000! (1998 June 17)

ECAs  larger than 1km have been called Apollo objects – after the Earth-crossing asteroid Apollo discovered in 1932. (Wetherill 1979) The number of known Apollo Objects keeps increasing:
1963 – 10;  1979 – 31;  1986 – 57;  1991 – 77;  1993 – 150.

Asteroids which come dangerously close to Earth are called "Earth grazing asteroids" or "near Earth asteroids".

Kowal (1989) listed 3445 asteroids – of all sorts – of known orbits.  In 1991 New Scientist put it at 4,900. (Hecht, September 7)

 
YEAR
CUMULATIVE number of ASTEROIDS DISCOVERED
ASTEROIDS OF KNOWN ORBIT
1801 (Ceres) 1
1850 13
1868 100
1879 200
1890 300
1900 464
1903 500
1923 1,000
1960 2,000 350
1970
1,700
1990 15,000 4,500
1991 18,000 5,000
1995 45,000? 7,200
1997
9,000

Newly discovered asteroids are initially labeled by the year and two letters (except the letter "I" is not used).  For example 1995 CD.  "C" being the third letter of the alphabet refers to the third half-month of the year i.e. February 1-14.  "D" being the fourth letter means it's the fourth object found in that half month.

After the orbit is calculated the asteroid gets a number to represent its rank in the order of discovery, and a name. For example 4147 Lennon is the 4147th asteroid of known orbit. Ceres is officially called 1 Ceres.
 

IMPACT

A stony, low-density, object which exploded 10 km above ground in Siberia in 1908 was 30 meters across. (Hecht 1993 January 16)  (Objects below 50-100 meters and/or of low density are likely to explode in the atmosphere.)  It flattened trees to 70km away, blew men and horses over at 250km and was heard at 1,000km!  A smaller object exploded above the Amazon jungle in August 1930 with a force of perhaps 20 Hiroshima bombs!

In 1694 Sir Edmund Halley (1656-1742) gave a lecture to the Royal Society of London attributing Noah's Flood to impact by a comet. He speculated that depressions like the Caspian Sea were formed by impacts.
Sir William Whiston (1667-1752) published a book speculating that impacts were important in Earth's geological history.
Simon Laplace (1749-1827), French philosopher/astronomer, also – in System of the World (1796) – speculated that comets could cause global disaster.

These men spoke in terms of comets because asteroids were still unknown. Although lacking proof their ideas were centuries ahead of their time.

In March 1994 the Royal Astronomical Society in London postulated that a large comet broke up in the inner Solar System about 100,000 years ago. (Gribbin 1994)  Dust of the comet blocked sunlight and caused recent ice ages. The comet is also the source of the Taurid meteor stream observable in November as shooting stars.

Victor Clube of Oxford University believes that Earth passes through the thickest part of the Comet's leftover debris – a stream of dust and rock – every 3,000 years. This happened around 2500 BC and 500 AD. Impacts of rocks from Space at those times destroyed civilizations, caused mass migrations and led to myths of fighting gods and stories of fire from heaven. (Gribbin 1994; Brittle 1994; The Australian 1997 Dec. 16,  p. 8)

About 500 AD an asteroid may have shattered in Argentina creating craters 4½ km and 1¼km across.  A 1½km crater in Nebraska may be only 3000 years old! (Hecht 1992 December 12)  Around 1200 AD South Island of New Zealand possibly experienced a blast that caused wide destruction.  In 1178 there may have been an impact on the Moon–the monks at Canterbury Cathedral chronicled color changes.

In February 1913 a brilliant fireball, 50 km up, streaked southeast from Saskatchewan to New York and over the Atlantic. (Lewis 1996 p. 86)

A 50-ton asteroid created an 8.5 meter crater in Estonia in June 1937.  Most of it burned up in the atmosphere and the object hitting the ground weighed perhaps 100 kg.  In 1947 a 70 ton object disintegrated over Siberia and caused 100 mini craters the largest 30 meters wide.  A five-meter-wide crater was caused by a one ton object in Eastern Russia in May 1990.

In April 1990 a one-kilogram fragment of an asteroid smashed through the roof of a house in the Netherlands. (Schilling 1990)  Lewis (1996) included a table of meteorite falls which caused damage or killed or injured animals or people.  The Chinese have records of 300 falls of meteorites between 700 BC and AD 1920.  The most destructive – in 1490 when "stones fell like rain" – killed 10,000!! (Verschuur 1996 p. 40)

Atmospheric detonations occurred in British Columbia (1965), Ontario (1966), Alaska (1969), north Mexico (1969), Montana (1972), New York (1992) and the Western Pacific (1994). A small four-meter asteroid exploded over Dubbo (Australia) in April 1993 with the power – 12 kilotons – of the Hiroshima bomb. In May 1993 a 2-kiloton explosion occurred 500km northeast of Perth, Western Australia. (The Age 1997 Jan. 23, p. A3) A 100-kiloton explosion in 1978 in the Pacific was considered a clandestine nuclear test but is now believed to have been an asteroid.

Of 19 impact craters known in Australia, four are under 6,000 years old! Therefore in Australia alone the impact rate is one per 1,500 years!

Grieve & Robertson (1979) listed 78 geologic features on Earth suspected of being caused by asteroid hits. The oldest is 2 billion years old and the biggest 140km across.  Norman et al (1977) claimed  there are many large circular structures on Earth – some 1000km across! About 100 impact craters of 1-100km diameter were confirmed by 1985. (Smith 1986)
 

CUMULATIVE NUMBER OF
IMPACT CRATERS ON EARTH IDENTIFIED 

YEAR
CRATERS
1930s
9
1950
12
1979 50
1981 c.90
1990 c.120
1997 c.200


Impact craters are identified by:
Morphology: Bowl-shaped depression with raised rim, peeled back strata, central uplift in larger craters.
Tektites: Bead-like quartz crystals with shock-caused flaws known to result from impact.
Shatter Cones: Conical striations caused by extreme pressures.
Minerals which form under high pressures: When found on the surface these suggest a catastrophic event.
Presence of magnetite:  This results when a nickel-rich asteroid is heated in oxygen as it goes through the atmosphere.
Iridium layers: Iridium is rare on Earth but more common in asteroids. Large impacts may deposit a layer of iridium-rich dust over the planet.
Life on planet Earth has experienced about 30 occasions of rapid extinction. It's estimated from crater counts of the Moon that asteroid impacts on Earth able to cause 50km craters or bigger occur every 10 million years on average. (Chapman & Morrison, Sky & Telescope 1990)

It's probable, therefore, that many of the extinctions followed from asteroid impacts.

 
THE BIG FIVE EXTINCTIONS
THE "BIG FIVE"
MILLIONS OF
YEARS AGO
EXTINCTION RATE
End of late Ordovician
440
60% of all species
Frasnian/Femmenian boundary in Upper Devonian
367
70% of marine species
Permian/Triassic boundary
250
90% of marine species;
70% of land species;
30% of all species;
65% of insect families
Triassic/Jurassic boundary
200
75% of all species;
50% of marine invertebrate genera;
67% of amphibian families;
78% of reptile families;
30% of insect orders
Cretaceous/Tertiary
65
88% of land species;
75% of all species

The best evidence for asteroid impact causing extinctions is the extinction of dinosaurs at the Cretaceous/Tertiary or K/T boundary.  Several asteroids hit, the biggest one in Yucatan Peninsula, Central America. The crater was found in 1990 and identified in 1992. Pieces of Yucatan melt-rock were dated (Potassium/Argon method) at 65 million years. (Swinburne 1993)

Others, however, blamed the K/T-boundary calamity on massive volcanic eruption. (Courtillot 1990; Hecht 1986) The answer seems to be "A Double Whammy". (Jaroff 1995) A major impact transfers much of its energy through the planet and bursts open part of the opposite side triggering huge lava flows.

The major extinctions of 367 and 250 million years ago also have evidence of asteroid impact. (Palmer 1992;  Hecht 1990 November 24)

Apparently a gigantic impact occurred only 15 million years ago! New Scientist (1988) reported on a 320 km crater in Czechoslovakia. [This has been corrected to 150 million years–Ed.]

The Moon has 5,000 craters larger than 5km produced in the last 600 million years. (Verschuur 1996) This is used to estimate impact rates on Earth:
 

IMPACT FREQUENCY OF DIFFERENT SIZE ASTEROIDS 

SIZE
FREQUENCY
c. 5km
one/10,000,000yrs
c. 2km
one/1,000,000yrs
c. 1km one/100,000yrs
c. 0.1km one/century

Much of the evidence of cratering on Earth is removed by erosion and by continental drift.  Erosion would remove a 1km crater in a million years or 0.1km crater in 10,000 years.  Some references list original sizes and others current sizes. Manicougan Crater in Quebec, for example, was originally 100km across but is now 65 km across.  In general: "Crater diameters are typically 20 times larger than the size of the impactor." (Verschuur 1996 pp. 148, 41)
 

CRATERS ON EARTH ABOVE 8km Diameter

AGE –  YEARS in MILLIONS
LOCATION
SIZE (km)
1970
Vredefort,  South Africa
140
1850
Sudbury,  Ontario, Canada
300
1685
Teague Ring,  Western Australia
28
>700
Spider,  Western Australia
13
700
Janisjarvi,  Russia
14
600
Lake Acraman, South Australia
160
600
Beaverhead, Montana,  USA
15
>550
Kelly West, N T,  Australia
10
>540
Strangways, N T, Australia
26
>540
Lawn Hill, Queensland, Australia
20
<500
Glover Bluff,  Illinois,  USA
10
<500
Presquile, Quebec,  Canada
12
430
Lac Couture, Quebec,  Canada
10
400
Lac La Moinerie, Quebec,  Canada  8
8
<400
Nicholson Lake, NW Territories,  Canada
12.5
380
Kaluga,  Russia
15
368
Siljan,  Sweden
55
360?
Chad 17 & 13
357
Charlevoix, Quebec,  Canada
54
<350
State Islands, Ontario,  Canada
30
330
Ternovka,  Russia
12
300
South of Chicago,  USA
13
<300
Kentland, Indiana,  USA
13
290
Clearwater Lakes, Quebec,  Canada
32 & 22
<280
Des Plaines, Illinois,  USA
8
<249
Araguainha Dome,  Brazil
40
<225
Kar-Kul,  Tajikistan
45
220
Puchzeh Katunki,  Russia
80
220
Saint Martin,  Manitoba,  Canada
40
215
Obolon,  Ukraine
15
214
Manicougan, Quebec, Canada
100
200
Red Wing, North Dakota,  USA
9
200?
Wells Creek, Tennessee,  USA
14
186
Rochechouart, France
23
150?
Barents Sea
39
150
Deep Bay, Saskatchewan,  Canada
10
142
Gosses Bluff, N T, Australia
22
<130
Azuara,  Spain
30
121
Lake Mien,  Sweden
9
<120
Oasis,  Libya
11.5
115
Carswell Lake, Saskatchewan,  Canada
39
110
Dellen,  Sweden
15
100
Lagoisk,  USSR
17
<100
Sierra Madera, Texas,  USA
13
95
Steen River, Alberta, Canada
25
88
Boltysh,  Ukraine
25
77
Lappajarvi,  Finland
17
74
Manson,  Iowa,  USA
35
73
Kara Peninsula,  Russia
60
65
NW Pacific, 2000km east of Japan
65
Chicxulub, Yucatan, Central Americ
300-400
<65
Eagle Butte,  Alberta,  Canada

<60
Hico, Texas,  USA
9
<60
Connolly Basin,  WA
9
58
Marquez Dome, Texas,  USA 15
55
Ragozinka,  Russia
9
52
Atlantic–200 km SE of Nova Scotia
45
50
Logancha,  Russia
20
40
Lagoisk,  Belarus
17
38
Mistatin Lake,  Labrador, Canada
28
38?
Florida Everglades,  USA
28
37
Wanapitei,  Ontario,  Canada
8.5
35
Popigai,  Russia
100
21
Haughton, NW Territories,  Canada
20.5
15
Prague,  Czechoslovakia
320
15
Nordlingen,  Germany
24
12
Vargeao Dome,  Brazil
12
10
Karla,  Russia
12
3.5
El'gygylgyn,  Russia
18
1.3
Bosumtwi,  Ghana
10.5
0.9
Zhamanshin,  Kazakhstan
13.5
0.01
Sythylemenkat Lake, Alaska, USA
12




SOME OTHER CRATERS and DIAMETERS (KM)
Ashanti, Ghana                             11
Chassenon, France                     15
Talemzane, Algeria                      17.5
Alaska                                           20
 La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada   40
Richat, Mauritania                        50
Wilkes Land, Antartica              240
Falklands,  Atlantic                     300
 

CRATERS EVERYWHERE

Planet Mercury is crater-covered. The biggest, Mare Caloris, is 1,300km across.  The impact which caused it melted the entire surface of Mercury.

Venus has 100 craters above 40km diameter. Its thick atmosphere makes most asteroids explode high up. The Magellan space probe found 400 "airblast" craters. (Mitton 1992) Mars is crater covered.  So are its moons and the moons of other planets.

A glance at Earth's Moon through binoculars reveals a landscape of circular depressions!  About 20,000 are visible through powerful telescopes.

The "maria" cover 16% of the Moon's surface. They are remnants of impacts of asteroids 50 km across which caused huge lava flows 3 ½ billion years ago.  The maria contain:

         5 craters above 50km diameter;
       24 craters 25-50km diameter;
  1,000 craters above 1km diameter

Even asteroids are crater-covered. Mathilde, 61 km long, is pockmarked with craters. Five are over 18 km across! (Chaikin 1997)
 
 

IMPACT CONSEQUENCES

Compressed air beneath a large asteroid in the split second before impact would heat up five times hotter than the Sun's surface!  A ½km asteroid hitting Central Australia would devastate a radius of 250km, shake flat all the cities of Australia, and probably end civilized society worldwide. The banking system would go beserk, food distribution cease, government services terminate, and law and order end.

Since 70% of Earth's surface is water 70% of impacts will be in oceans.  The first oceanic impact site was identified in 1987, 200 km south east of Nova Scotia. (New Scientist 1987 June 25)

A mere 300 meter asteroid exploding into mid ocean would cause a splash 35 km high and tsunamis big enough to wipe out ¼ of humankind!  This is because most major cities lie near sea level:

Many capitals lie on coasts!  An exception – perhaps indicating Godly wisdom – is Jerusalem! (Psalm 125)

Impacts of 200-300 meter asteroids average one in 10,000 years – and could also be an explanation of Noah's Flood! (Verschuur 1996 pp. 166, 162)

A 1km impact in deep water would instantly flash heat surrounding air and water to 30,000oC, turn thousands of cubic kilometers of water into high pressure steam and generate a wave that would still be 100 meters high 2,000km from the impact site! Upon reaching the continental shelf its height would multiply 20 times to two km – many times higher than skyscrapers!

The wave from a 10km iron asteroid in mid ocean would be 3km high 1,000km from the impact site and upon reaching the shore – 100 km high!! (Verschurr 1996 p. 154)  [It's been calculated that a mere 300 meter high wave would advance 100km inland! – Hills & Goda 1993]

A 2km asteroid impacting on land would kill half of humanity on the day by fire, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, billions of ejected boulders and rocks flying around, super hot winds and floods.  Says Jon Murrie:

The stuff reentering would look like lots and lots of shooting stars…like a glaring layer of material above you of several thousand degrees celsius…like being under a griller. (The Advertiser 1993 June 12)
 Most initial survivors would die later from consequences of soot and dust saturated air, acid rain mixed with toxic metals, food-chain destruction, famine and freezing temperatures.

If that sounds terrifying consider a 10km asteroid arriving at 25km per second on land. The energy released would be 117,000,000 megatons, equal to 9,000,000,000 (9 billion) Hiroshima bombs or over 2 million times the power of the largest nuclear device (57 megatons) exploded by humans!

A 200km wide crater would form. One million cubic km of rock would be ejected forming layer upon layer of glowing hot material circling the planet and causing a worldwide firestorm.  Billions of shooting stars would fill the sky. Hundreds of reentering rocks would be over 100 meters wide – each by itself able to cause devastation across hundreds of kilometers. Impact energy transmitted through the planet could break open the opposite side causing massive lava flows. The sound of the initial impact would be heard around the planet. Part of Earth's atmosphere would be blown off into space.  A thousand kilometers from the impact winds of 1,000 km/h would flatten cities and sweep away the rubble!  [Wind speeds of only 254-332 km/h  "destroy well-constructed buildings" and  winds of 333-419 km/h would level them! – Murck et al, 1997, p. 239]

Glowing layers of ash and dust circling the Earth would fry most creatures still surviving to death. The heat and winds would cause high evaporation and unimaginable downpours of steam and boiling water. Huge quantities of nitrogen oxides thrust into the sky would destroy the ozone layer and also cause enough acid rain to turn the oceans to dilute nitric/nitrous acid. After everything settles down the darkened skies blocking the sunlight would gradually turn Earth into a freezer!

Sometimes asteroid strikes may come in storms when comets break up. That happened to Jupiter in 1994. Duncan Steele (1995 pp.124-125) imagines hundreds of objects pelting Earth for days. Giant comets cross Earth's orbit and create this risk on average every 100,000 years. (pp. 129-130)
 

 ENERGY  CALCULATIONS

The energy yield of nuclear explosions is usually expressed in terms of the mass of TNT which releases the same amount of energy.
A 1 kiloton (KT) weapon equals 1,000 tons of TNT.
A 1 megaton (MT) weapon equals 1,000,000 tons of TNT.

The Hiroshima bomb (1945) was 12.5 KT,  the Nagasaki bomb 22 KT.
The larger nuclear warheads of the 1980s were 20 MT.

Barnaby (1983) said, "The total explosive power of the American and Soviet nuclear arsenals is roughly 15,000 megatons – equivalent to over one million Hiroshima bombs…or to 750 times all the high explosive used in all the wars in history."

Let's compare asteroid impacts  (we'll assume spherical asteroids):

The asteroid's volume  =  4/3 II r3  cubic cm.  (where the radius r is in cm.)
Its mass as estimated from meteorites is about 3 gram per cubic cm. (Gehrels 1996)
Therefore, an asteroid's total mass m  = 3  4/3 II r3     =  4 II r3  gram

The asteroid's kinetic energy depends on the mass and velocity.
E (energy in ergs)  =  ½ m v2   where velocity v is in cm/second.

Combining the two formulae gives:    E (ergs)  = 2 II r3 v2

But  1 MT  =  4.2 x 1022 ergs

Therefore the megaton equivalent of an impacting spherical asteroid is:
Energy   =  2 II r3 v2 / 4.2 x 1022  MT

As an example assume a diameter of 100 meters (radius = 5,000 cm) and a velocity v of  20 km per second  (=2,000,000 cm per second).

Substituting these into the formula gives:
E  =  2 x II x 5,0003  x 2,000,0002 /  4.2 x 1022    =   77 MT

An impacting 100 meter asteroid equals   77 MT

 

ENERGY RELEASED BY VARIOUS EVENTS
 (For asteroids assume
v = 20 km/sec.   mass = 3 gram/cubic cm.) 

EVENT MASS (tons billions) ENERGY (megatons)
Asteroid 10km    1,570 75,000,000
Asteroid  5km       196   9,350,000
Asteroid  1.5km           5.3      252,000
Asteroid  1.0km           1.6        75,000
Asteroid  0.5km           0.196          9,350
Meteor Crater Asteroid 0.2           0.013             600
Asteroid  0.1km           0.002               77
Siberian (1908) asteroid 0.05km
              10
Richter 9 Earthquake
       60,000
Richter 8 Earthquake
            250
Tambora (1815 AD)
       19,000
Santorini (c.1600 BC)
         4,500
Krakatoa (1883 AD)
         1,500
All Nuclear Arsenals
       15,000
Hurricane
            100
Largest Nuclear Bomb
              57
Hiroshima bomb 1945
                0.013

Numerous texts contradict the above energy figures.

Swinburne (1993) gave only 108 MT for a 10km asteroid but that could be a miscopy of the 108 MT given by Alvarez (1987).
Chapman & Morrison (Sky & Telescope 1990) gave 1 MT for a 0.2-0.5km asteroid.
Verschuur (1998) gave 1,000 MT for a 30 meter asteroid.  Davies (1995) gave 10 million MT for a 9 km asteroid.

These apparently got their calculation wrong. Others differ because they assumed a different density or velocity.

Figures for the comparison events also vary. Gallant (1964) put Krakatoa at 1.8 MT and Meteor Crater at 2.3 MT. Simkin & Fiske (1983) put Krakatoa at 100-150 MT.

The largest earthquakes this century measured 8.6 on the Richter scale.  Plus-8 earthquakes average two per decade.  About four in the range 7.4-7.9,  where "most buildings collapse", occur each year. (Murck et all 1997)

If given the mass and velocity of an asteroid, convert mass to grams and velocity to cm/sec and substitute in:
MT  =  ½ m v2 / 4.2 x 1022
 

RECENT NEAR (under 800,000 km) MISSES

1937 October.  Hermes, a 1km asteroid, passed Earth at 750,000km.

1972 August.  An 85-meter, 2,000,000 ton object, 400 times as bright as the full Moon flashed over North America and generated sonic booms!

1989 March. Asteroid 1989 FC, 0.5km across, missed  by 650,000km.

1991 January. A 10-meter asteroid, 1991 BA, missed Earth by 170,000km.

1993 May.  A 10-meter rock, weighing 5,000 tons, missed Earth by 140,000km – half the distance to the Moon.  A hit would have been like 20 Hiroshima bombs!

1994 February. A 1,000 ton asteroid streaked across the western Pacific at 72,000km per hour and exploded 20km above sea level. (Matthews 1994)
In March a 10 meter object, 1994 ES1, passed at about 160,000km. (New Scientist 1994 March 26)
In November asteroid 1994 WR12 came within 720,000km. In December 1994 XM1 came within 100,000 km.

1995 March: 1995 FF passed at 430,000km.
1995 October: 1995 UB passed at 750,000km.
1996 May:  1996 JA1 passed at 450,000km.
 

THE BIBLE

In Genesis 1:2 the word "Spirit" in "Spirit of God" is the Hebrew word "ruach" and means "wind".  "Wind of God" is a figure of speech referring to an exceptionally strong wind. Genesis 1, then, describes earth (=the land) "in the beginning" as water-covered, dark, wind-swept and lifeless.

This description corresponds to the consequences of impact(s) of one or more large asteroids in an ocean. The Genesis creation story would then be a story of God restoring our planet after a major catastrophe. (See  Investigator 38 & 54)

Sodom and Gomorrah, according to the Bible, were destroyed by "brimstone and fire…out of heaven" and turned "to ashes". (Genesis 19:24-28; 1 Peter 2:6) Since "heaven" usually means the sky we can speculate that a small asteroid exploded above the cities.

Joshua 10:11 describes a battle between Israelites and Amorites:

...the Lord threw down great stones from heaven upon them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the men of Israel killed with the sword.
The "stones" could mean a meteorite shower. The reference "hailstones" could  be the human understanding of what they were.  Lewis (1996) called it a  "Lethal meteorite". (p. 176)

An intriguing passage occurs in Acts:

… the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky. (Acts 19:35)
Verschuur (1996) interpreted Pentecost events (Acts 2:1-4) as "a fireball breaking up in the sky and exploding." (p. 37)   Speculative but possible.

Lewis (1996) quoted Revelation 8 and reasoned:

The central theme is clear and unambiguous: the events described in Revelation are of astronomical origin, and describe physical events, not mere portents or symbols.  Did John somehow know more about impact phenomena than any scientist before the present decade?  (p. 13)
The apostle Peter predicted the day of the Lord (end of the world) by fire (2 Peter 2:6; 3:1-13) which starts with a "loud noise". (3:10)  By comparison with the Flood of Noah which came largely from the sky, it seems the fire also originates in the sky. (2 Peter 3:3-7)  Different Bible translations imply this with differing clarity.

The prophet Zephaniah added:

The day of the Lord is…a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness… 
In the fire of his [God's] jealous wrath, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full, yea, sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. (1:14-18)
 These descriptions of "a loud noise",  global fire, "sudden end" and thick darkness agree with the description of a large asteroid impact.  This  writer formulated this interpretation in 1974.  Bible information was considered along with the book Bombarded Earth plus the observation that a nail banged into wood with a hammer became warmer!  One simply imagined a "hammer" millions of times bigger descending 50,000 times faster!

Scientists didn't realize the global fire consequence until the late 1980s!  Mutch et al in Geology of Mars (1976) didn't mention it; nor Lunan in Man & The Planets (1983); nor Sagan in Comet (1985).

However, Time-Life Editors in Comets, Asteroids and Meteorites (1990) described the impact of a 9km-wide asteroid and wrote of trillions of glowing, speeding, microfine rock particles encircling the world and heating the surface to 3000oC.  Also, 27km-thick layers of soot, dust and nitrogen oxide smog would envelope our Earth, blot out sunlight and make the surface inky black for half a year.  A picture on pages 132-133 matches what the Bible says in words!

Prophecies of "stars" falling from the sky (Revelation 6:12-17;  Matthew 24:29) could be literally true if "shooting stars" and meteorites are meant. They would fall on the greatest scale following an asteroid impact. (Investigator 60)  In Revelation 6 the falling "stars" follow a  "great earthquake" – so great it moves:

"every mountain and island … from its place"!

In 1992 a scientist calculated one asteroid's orbit and predicted the world's end for 2126.  Another doomsday alert in March 1998 was that asteroid 1997 XF11 which is 2km across would end civilization in October 2028! (Hecht 1998; The Advertiser 1998 May 16) 

Both calculations turned out wrong but they raise a question. If a large asteroid were on a collision course we might know months or years ahead. Yet the Bible predicts something unexpected – like a "thief in the night".

Therefore, if the Bible is a supernatural book and if the asteroid impact interpretation of the "day of the Lord" is correct we can speculate whether there's a source of asteroids other than the Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud. Perhaps near the Sun where they can't be seen!
 

ALERT AND PREPARATION

Spacewatch, directed by Tom Gehrels, University of Arizona astronomer, started in 1990 using the University's 36-inch telescope.

In 1990 the US Congress asked NASA to investigate the threat from Space.  A conference followed in California, in 1991. At that time only four teams searched for Earth-crossing asteroids and a dozen groups made follow-up observations with only $1 million in resources. (Hecht 1991 September)

In 1993 a team of astronomers submitted a report titled Spaceguard to the US Congress.  It recommended international effort to find the orbits of all potentially threatening asteroids.  Since 1996 the Rome based Spaceguard Foundation has promoted the discovery and study of asteroids. (Quest For Knowledge Magazine 1997 April) NASA expects to spend $US1billion over ten years to find and study an estimated 25,000 objects above 1km in size in Earth-crossing orbits. (Boyd 1998)

A one-kilometer rock, hitting Earth from Space, would destroy civilization. Yet the rock could be deflected by nuclear weapons or lasers which melt or destroy part of its surface. (Begley & Gideonse 1997)

In 1974 this writer first concluded the global fire of 2 Peter and the "thick darkness" of Zephaniah could occur if a large asteroid impacted. Science, in contrast, ignored ideas of global fire but knew about sunlight-blocking dust causing a freezer effect.  However, since the late 1980s it's believed a world on fire would occur first and deep-freeze afterwards.

Geologists, astronomers and paleontologists who rejected "catastrophism" as unscientific had "narrowness of vision".  This delayed research thereby risking our extinction.  Asteroids near 300 meters diameter strike Earth on average every 10,000 years. Apparently none have struck since civilization began! Countries with cities concentrated along coastlines (e.g. Australia) could be economically wiped out by tsunamis if an asteroid that size hit an ocean! (Luke 21:25) Governments which ignore this, display similar "narrowness of vision" as the scientists!

With Bible prophecies giving descriptions similar to scientific descriptions of  asteroid impacts it's time to think!
 
 

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ASTEROID DATA OK
BUT BIBLE INPUT SPECULATIVE

John H Williams

(Investigator  63, 1998 November p. 5)


I enjoyed Anonymous's article on asteroids. (Investigator No. 62)

There was a recent ABC-TV program, Quantum, which showed a rusty, home-made telescope that was the southern hemisphere's contribution to spotting potentially lethal rocks, all that remained of a formerly government-funded project.

Mr A has done a lot of research and appears to have got his sums more or less right. The main purpose of his article became clear when he launched into his favourite topic, the ‘over-valued idea' that The Bible is the first and last word on just about anything, and,  if one interprets it in the ‘correct way, i.e. Mr A's way, it reads like a history or a science text-book.

My response is incredulity, though one can't help admiring Mr A's industry, commitment and skills. His method is to bombard the reader with authoritative- sounding quotations and interpretations, supported by an impressive list of references which show him to be abreast of scientific thinking. The problem for me is that there's too much speculation masquerading as ‘evidence' and he's too eager to conclude that the errors/omissions/ shortcomings of science/scientists add to the Good Book's authenticity.

So scientists have a "narrowness of vision" which has prevented them seeing what The Bible ‘saw' thousands of years ago?   Mr A does a thorough job of suggesting ‘Someone Else' is ‘in charge' and that ‘He' knows all and that ‘His' predictions, such as the formation of the state of Israel, have come to pass.  My view is that the Christian Church has suffered a massive "narrowness of vision" about what science has shown to be so, and has for centuries fought a rear-guard action to muzzle those, like Galileo, who've said "Not so!"

For brevity's sake I refer Mr A to Chapter 4, called Heaven and Hell, in Carl Sagan's 1983 classic, Cosmos, pp 92-123.  It's a superb piece of writing by a great scientist, a fine antidote to the subjective speculation of Mr A, who should read the whole book as a penance!

So, thank-you Mr A for the factual data on comets, asteroids and meteorites (I used some of it in a bit of science relief teaching) but, and it's a big BUT, the last part of your article was more of your monomanic belief in the Bible's veracity.

It's clever stuff but it's highly speculative and, to me, unconvincing. "A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses: it is an idea that possesses the mind."  (Robert Bolton).

Adelaide–SA
 



"FIRE AND BRIMSTONE" –
RESPONSE TO WILLIAMS

Anonymous

(Investigator 64, 1999 January, p. 4)


Mr Williams' (No. 63 p. 6) main criticism of my effort to make sense of various Bible verses by the idea of asteroid impacts was that it's highly speculative and therefore to him "unconvincing".

"Speculate" is the word I myself used. Asteroids were unknown until 1801 and therefore the word "asteroid" could not be in the Bible – obviously.  We can, however, compare descriptions given in the Bible with descriptions of asteroid impacts given by science and see if the two sets of descriptions match up. That's what I did in my article in Investigator No. 62.

When I did this first – in 1974 after reading Bombarded Earth – I was seeking a response to Bible critics who claimed the "loud noise" followed by worldwide fire and melting elements, described in 2 Peter chapter 3, was silly since no natural/physical means for such events existed. Critics also ridiculed the "brimstone and fire…out of heaven" which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because they knew of no natural mechanism for such occurrence.

Several religions I consulted gave symbolic explanations. However, 2 Peter 3 contrasts the global fire with the literal (according to the Old Testament) water of Noah's Flood and therefore the fire would be as literal as the water of the Flood story. (See details Investigator 43)

About 15 years after 1974 science caught up and described the global fire that would follow an impact by a 9km-wide asteroid.

Despite Bible descriptions and scientific descriptions matching up, and despite my 1974 anticipation that such match-up would eventually occur being fulfilled, and despite the critics of  2 Peter 3 having criticized in ignorance I prefer to speak of "speculation" rather than "fact".

My article Asteroids and their Impact omitted a discussion of "brimstone".  Bible dictionaries are inconclusive as to what brimstone, i.e. burning stone, is except to suggest it might be sulphur. 

The Sodom and Gomorrah account associates brimstone with fire and says it came from "heaven" i.e. the sky. (Genesis 19)  It's also something that is "scattered" (Job 18:15) and "rains" down and is associated with a "scorching wind". (Psalm 11:6; Ezekiel 38:22) These clues fit the description of an asteroid breaking up in the sky.

A problem with answering skeptical critics is that Bible statements are often so advanced that we must wait for science to catch up before the critics can be proved wrong by science.  My method is to remember the many Bible claims already proved accurate and be open-minded enough to speculate whether the trend will continue.
 



ENERGY UNITS DEBATE

(Investigator 63, 1998 November)

In Investigator No. 62 "Anonymous" gave energy values for the impacts of asteroids of various sizes and criticized professional scientists for getting the calculation wrong.

As editor I checked this out before publishing No. 62.

Adelaide scientist Allan Lang considered the problem for weeks but eventually wouldn't commit himself.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies of the University of Adelaide had given 10 million megatons for a 9km asteroid in the magazine 21C (May 1995). Applying the formula used by Anonymous, however, gave 55 million megatons!

Regarding this Dr Davies replied:

The energy yield from an impact is very rubbery, because both the density and the speed of impact can vary a lot, and the latter enters quadratically. The angle of impact also has some bearing on the matter. A discrepancy of a factor of 5 is neither here nor there.
(From a letter dated August 27)

Martin Stewart, lecturer in physics at the University of South Australia, said by phone that the use of "ergs" as a unit of energy is "antiquated". More usual is to use joules.
1 joule = 107 ergs.

Dr Martin got a student to get the joule/erg equivalent of a megaton from the Internet. The result, 2.8 x1016 joules, is six times higher than the 4.2 x 1015 joules (4.2 x 1022 ergs) used by Anonymous.

The Penguin Book of Comparisons (1980) and The Penguin Dictionary of Science (1979) give 4 x 1015 joules i.e. 4 x 1022 ergs.

The book Bombarded Earth (1964), a reference used by Anonymous, gives 4.2 x 1019 ergs for a kiloton. (p. 82) This would be 4.2 x 1022 for a megaton.

The conclusion at present is that Anonymous used the correct formula.
 




BRIEF REPORT—ROCK FROM SPACE MAY HIT

(Investigator 68, 1999 September)


An asteroid named 1999AN10 could come within 30,000km of Earth on August 7, 2027.  That is only 1/12 the distance to the Moon.

There is also 1 chance in 10,000,000 that the close encounter in 2027 will so shift the asteroid's path due to the influence of Earth's gravity that it will come within 8,000km in 2034 and could hit in 2039! (The Advertiser 1999 May 22 p. 45)

1999AN10 has a diameter of 800 metres.

Applying information and formulae supplied in Investigator No. 62 (pp. 47 & 49) gives the energy of impact of a rock this size as 38,000 megatons.  That's about 2½ times the combined power of the world's nuclear arsenals at the height of the Cold War.

 
 

WRONG CRATER AGE

The list of Earth's impact craters of over 8km diameter – Investigator 62 pp. 43-44 – includes one serious mistake.

The 320km crater in Czechoslovakia is not 15 million years old but 150 million years.  "Anonymous" says he correctly cited New Scientist magazine but in this instance New Scientist was wrong.
 




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