Question of the Week Podcast

Question of the Week episode

Tue, 13th Mar 2012

Would you receive any warning before being squished by a meteorite?

Impact crater in Algeria (c) Anthere @ Wikipedia

If there were a large object, say a meteorite falling straight down where you are standing, what kind of warning would you notice? Would there be an accompanying sound that could warn you? Or would you not know until it's too late? Plus we ask, can you catch cancer?....

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  • How would I know if a meterorite was falling towards me?

    If there were a large object, say a meteorite falling straight down where I'm standing, what kind of warning would I notice? Would there be an accompanying sound that could warn people on the ground? Or would I not know until it's too late? Love the show! Daniel Spain Nash...

 

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Assuming the meteorite was travelling at supersonic speeds, there would be no sound until after the impact.  So, you would have to rely on either tracking the meteorite before it impacts Earth with our NEO warning system, or watching the flash of light as the meteorite enters our atmosphere.

It is easier to view "falling stars" at night than during the day. CliffordK, Sun, 4th Mar 2012

You can always tell if you're on a collision course with anything by a simple rule known as "constant bearing, decreasing range."

Cheese2001, Mon, 5th Mar 2012

I think you might feel a shock wave a few milliseconds before you are squashed and you might notice a bright light from re-entry.

This made me think of a past event had personal experience with....
I was skiing in Banff Canada on a snowy spring day when we came across a man taking pictures of his girlfriend. The hair which hadnít been dampened by the snow yet was standing on end as if charged by a Tesla coil. I thought this very odd and sat back to wait for my friend to get closer.
When wearing skis it is sometime comfortable to lie back on the snow and have your skies planted in the ground in front of you vertically. As I am laying back I notice a very high pitched whistling noise but canít tell where it is coming from because of the pitch.  I suspected my ski but thought this impossible. I did confirm it was my ski because as I changed the angle of it from vertical the intensity changed as well.
This was the strangest scene I have experienced in my life and caused a strange primal fear in me.  I fear very little in life but kind of creeped me out.
As I used to be a private pilot I felt comfortable phoning a weather expert at the Calgary airport to see if they had any idea what these events were all about. It was explained to me that we were in a channel of high charge where a lightning strike was likely to occur. The charge builds until it becomes high enough for the air to conduct a lightning bolt.  I was told if this occurs again to get down immediately.
For those who live where there is snow you might think that lightening does not ever happen in the winter when snowing. But remember this was the spring and in the mountains thousands of feet up. It might be snowing up there and raining down lower by way of cumulus clouds.
Love the show..

beveridge, Tue, 6th Mar 2012

air compression? CZARCAR, Wed, 7th Mar 2012

Ah. But the air between you and the asteroid hitting the top of the atmosphere will be compressed to a fraction of its size in about 1/100 of a second. This will raise the temperature on top of his head to about 8000K. So, theoretically you will know the meteor will hit you before it does as all your hair will be burnt off just before impact. Of course, you'll be to busy being incinerated and turned into a plasma to bother noticing. steve, Mon, 5th Nov 2012

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