Comets make people crazy, and with the 2012 end-of-the-world scenario in people's minds (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show), the hype surrounding a minor cometary body called Comet Elenin is approaching a point similar to the outbreak of lunacy that accompanied the passage of Comet Hale-Bopp, which led to the mass suicide of a cult group in late 1995.
In Discovery News, Ray Villard writes: "It's nearly 300 million miles away and barreling toward us. The intruder from deep space, called comet Elenin. Though it's now over twice as far away from Earth than the sun is, comet Elenin has already been blamed for triggering earthquakes and shifting Earth's rotation axis. The comet has also been accused of melting ice on Mars and stirring up a storm on Saturn. It's predicted to flip Earth's magnetic field. And that's just the beginning: There are numerous "Cometgate" allegations of news media and government cover-up, such as the existence of hidden comet shelters for US officials.
By late August comet Elenin will be visible in the night sky as a dim star with a tail, as it crosses Earth's orbit once again on its regular trajectory around the sun. It will be closest to the earth on October 16, but will pass no closer to us than 84 times distance from the earth to the moon. And no matter how close it comes, it can't harm us because it's a loose agglomeration of volatile ices and dust that measures just a few miles across--in fact, it's one hundred billionth the mass of our moon.
On the Space.com website, Leonard David talks about another asteroid and says that this is "one of the larger potentially perilous space rocks in the heavens--in terms of smacking the Earth in the future." Asteroid 2005 YU55 will arrive a month later, in early November. YU55 is about 1,300 feet in diameter and will pass by Earth less than one lunar distance away. David quotes NASA's Don Yeomans as saying, "The close Earth approach of 2005 YU55 on November 8 is unusual since it is close and big. On average, one wouldn't expect an object this big to pass this close but every 30 years." It's not expect to impact us, but because of its size and proximity to Earth, the Minor Planet Center has designated it as a "potentially hazardous asteroid."
Come skywatching with us in beautiful Nashville in June! You can also meet all the "stars" of our wonderful Dreamland radio shows IN PERSON (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show), but don't delay: Our tickets sell out nearly every year.