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Corner of my mind: Ice monsters of outerspace

Sound like a grade “B” sci-fi flick?

Too bad, it’s not. It’s real.

On the outer edges of our solar system, where the sun doesn’t shine worth a photon’s mass, lives the Asteroid Gang: A bunch of juvenile delinquents, these outcasts from the early solar system survived the violent years by escaping the powerful lair of the sun’s gravitational field. Like the Greek God Cronus who ate his own children, these giant chunks of rock and ice that might’ve been planets, hide out from Dad in the cold dark reaches between Mars and Jupiter. There, in territorial gangs, they make hits on each other. Some are hurled into the relatively peaceful suburbs of the inner planets, who, having suffered the attack of asteroid gangs during the dawn of our solar system, are content now to orbit, each in its own room, within the golden halls of Father Sun.

You have only to look at the face of the Man in the Moon. You’d think he had smallpox, for all the pits and cavities he’s sustained. Mars also shows the results of multiple hits. Earth has done some cosmic cosmetic surgery with an atmosphere that burns up fast-moving rocks from space and lush plant growth that hides a multitude of early scars.

In March 2009, an asteroid came between Earth and the moon, within 46,000 miles of grazing our home world; no more than a hair’s breath in astronomical measurements. At 200 feet long, 2009 DD45, as the asteroid was christened, is now in an orbit that will intersect Earth’s orbit again. It’s a shooting gallery out there, folks. Asteroid 2009 DD45 would have impacted with the force of a nuclear blast that could have wiped out a city or caused a tsunami that could have devastated coastlines. Scientists compare it to the Russian Tunguska event in 1908, when an asteroid air blast leveled 8 million trees in Central Siberia with a shock blast estimated at 5.0 on the Richter Scale, had there been Richter Scales at the time. For months afterwards, the night sky was lit in a glow that people could read by.

The following is an eye-witness report taken from

“On the 17th of June, around 9 in the AM, we observed an unusual natural occurrence. In the N Karelinski village (200 verst N of Kirensk) the peasants saw to the North-West, rather high above the horizon, some strangely bright (impossible to look at) bluish-white heavenly body, which for 10 minutes moved downwards. The body appeared as a ‘pipe’, i.e. a cylinder. The sky was cloudless, only a small dark cloud was observed in the general direction of the bright body. It was hot and dry. As the body neared the ground (forest), the bright body seemed to smudge, and then turned into a giant billow of black smoke, and a loud knocking (not thunder) was heard, as if large stones were falling, or artillery was fired. All buildings shook. At the same time the cloud began emitting flames of uncertain shapes. All villagers were stricken with panic and took to the streets, women cried, thinking it was the end of the world. “The author of these lines was meantime in the forest about 6 verst N of Kirensk, and heard to the NE some kind of artillery barrage, that repeated in intervals of 15 minutes at least 10 times. In Kirensk in a few buildings in the walls facing north-east window glass shook.” —Ê Sibir newspaper, July 2, 1908

Recently, some scientists have opted for alternative theories to the Siberian asteroid strike, from a Russian who believes that an alien spaceship sacrificed itself by hitting the asteroid before it struck Earth, since there’s no crater at the epicenter, to a Sandia Lab New Mexico scientist who believes it was an enormous explosion from inside the Earth itself. Last I heard, the jury was still out on the cause of the explosion, especially since the Russian scientist couldn’t find any remains of an alien spaceship. Gimme a break!

But thank whatever gods may be for Jupiter, no gas bag he, but our great protector and preserver, who stops most drive-bys in their tracks. “Hey, you boys over there!” he might call to an asteroid gang as it whizzed by.

“Who, us?”

“Yeah, you!” Jupiter fixes them with a stormy red eye. “Where do you think you’re going? Some guy an’ his wife, name of Shoemaker, snitched on you. Now get over here.”

“You don’t want us, Cyclops Eye,” an ice-crusted bully might throw back. “You want the Comet Gang.”

“I’ll take you, too. Now don’t burn me up!”

Doomed, the rocky visitors obey Jupiter’s gravitational siren call. They shudder off their ice as they plunge into the huge planet’s gaseous drifts of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter, king of the Roman gods, has long been engaged in hauling in comets and asteroids in his gravitational net.

“Stay there where you can’t hurt nobody,” the Roman Godfather tells them. “Stone walls do not a prison make,” but an intense gravitational well sure helps.

I read that “NASA is concerned.”

Gee, you think?

So are the rest of us who know what’s out there. But the NASA scientists are on it, folks, developing technology that will divert any unwanted guests at our planet’s door. It’s a good thing, too, because the violent clashes that occur out there could give us a four-second warning with an object on steroids. Enough time to say “Goodbye, love. ‘The rest is silence.’” Which is a good place for me to say goodbye.


The rest is silence.


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