Asteroid grazes the Earth, humankind almost wiped out!

Or not.

The media have been reporting on a “bus-sized” asteroid that made a close pass by the Earth last Saturday. “Close” is a relative term — in astronomy, it generally means much further than you might think. In this case, the asteroid, called HL 129, came closer than the orbit of the Moon, which is about 240,000 miles away. By way of comparison, the much larger asteroid, 99942 Apophis, is predicted to come much closer to the Earth in the year 2029 — a mere tens of thousands of miles, which will make it visible to the naked eye from some locations on Earth — and yet a collision with the Earth has been mathematically ruled out based on what we currently know about Apophis.

So, maybe this still sounds troubling, but there are two reasons I don’t worry about asteroids hitting the Earth. The first is, unless the asteroid is very large — on the order the size of the one that’s believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs — then its destructive power is limited, and anyway it will most likely land in a large body of water or somewhere else that’s unpopulated by humans. (The likelihood of an asteroid hitting the Earth is inversely proportional to its size.) The second is, there’s not much we can do about an asteroid like HL 129. Despite our best efforts to monitor the skies for such objects, HL 129 was discovered only a few days before it made its close pass. That’s not nearly enough time to do anything about it, as it would take a minimum of a year to several years in order to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. So, why worry? As Christians, we are told not to worry about tomorrow; I think Matthew 6:25-34 also applies to asteroids.

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