Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them before They Find Us

By Donald K. Yeomans | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Near-Earth Objects as the Enablers
and Destroyers of Life

The question is not whether an asteroid has Earth's
name on it but rather which one and when?


[Hello, Earth, Mother Nature calling,
you haven't been paying attention]

The evidence for impact cratering events within the solar system is obvious and ubiquitous. The first telescopic views of the moon by Galileo in 1609 immediately showed craters, and almost every solid planet or natural satellite whose surface has been observed with high enough resolution shows unmistakable evidence of impact craters. Yes, tectonic evolution, wind and water erosion on Earth, and volcanism and erosion by wind-driven dust on Mars erased many of these craters, but just how clueless could some astronomers be? How many shots across the bow did Mother Nature need to fire before astronomers finally noticed that the Earth runs its course around the Sun in an astronomical shooting gallery—with us as the target?

The written history of impacting near-Earth objects is a short one because the idea of [rocks from space] was not generally accepted until the nineteenth century and the extent of the near-Earth object

-47-

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