The Threat From Outer Space
By Jason Jeffrey
Over a century ago Ignatius Donnelly summed up our precarious existence: We are but vitalized specks filled with a fraction of God’s delegated intelligence, crawling over an egg-shell filled with fire, whirling madly through infinite space, a target for the bombs of the universe.
By bombs Donnelly meant the untold number of asteroids and comets that fill the heavens around us which on perhaps not a few occasions have smashed into Earth itself, and may do so again.
Through revolutionary new techniques in observation, detection and photography, modern astronomers and astrophysicists have now identified two new classes of celestial objects which could pose a real danger to our planet within the foreseeable future, called NEA’s (Near Earth Asteroids) and ECC’s (Earth-Crossing Comets).
On September 29, asteroid “4179 Toutatis” passed within 1.6 million kilometres of Earth. Its approach was the closest in this century of any known asteroid the size of Toutatis, which measured around 4.6 kilometres in length. If it had struck the Earth, we could have faced what scientists have dubbed “a mass extinction event.”
Scientists believe the asteroid poses no risk at least through 2562, when Toutatis will pass within 400,000 kilometers of Earth – but astronomers admit there are forces in the solar system that can alter an asteroid’s orbit and put it on a collision course with Earth.
Earlier this year, on March 31, an asteroid skimmed past the Earth at a distance of just 6500 kilometres above the ground. Object “2004 FU162”, which spans 5-10 metres across, would have burned up as a fireball ending with a smaller explosion, had it ventured into the Earth’s atmosphere. The problem was astronomers did not discover it until after its passing. Scientists have since calculated the asteroid’s orbit was shifted by a whopping 20 degrees because of the Earth’s gravity.
The previous record for the closest asteroid approach to Earth was set on 18 March by an object called “2004 FH” which missed the Earth by about 40,000 kilometres. That was a much larger object, around 30 metres in diameter, but big enough to produce a one-megaton explosion in the atmosphere.
NASA calculates objects in the 100-200 metre range hit Earth about once every 700-1,000 years. Such an object did hit the Earth in 1908, over Tunguska in Siberia.
In the ECC (Earth-Crossing Comet) category, a very serious future candidate for an Earth grazing is comet Finlay, due to pass on October 27, 2060 – perhaps as close as 150,000 kilometres.
In 1993, astrophysicist Brian Marsden announced that comet Swift-Tuttle could possibly strike Earth in the 22nd century. It is scheduled to pass the Sun incoming from deep space on July 11, 2126, and on August 14 will come very close to our world. Should the slightest irregularity occur in its long periodic path during the intervening one and a half centuries, it could hit the planet dead-centre, and with a force equivalent to 100 million megatons of TNT.
Over the past few years we have often heard about the discovery of new asteroids and comets. This is the result of NASA’s 25-year survey of the sky to find objects wider than a kilometre that could have a devastating impact if they collided with Earth.
Fortunately, nothing of a dangerous size has been spotted heading our way for at least a century – or so they tell us. According to a US government advisor, secrecy would be the best option if scientists discovered a giant asteroid was on course to collide with Earth.
Speaking to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Geoffrey Sommer, of the Rand Corporation, said:
“If an extinction-type impact is inevitable, then ignorance for the populace is bliss. As a matter of common sense, if you can’t intercept it and you can’t move people out of the way in time, there’s nothing you can do in terms of reducing the costs of the potential impact.”
For one week in July 1994, astronomers watched a planetary body under attack, when two dozen pieces of the disintegrated comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plunged into Jupiter with explosive results, equivalent to 40 million megatons of TNT going off in a chain reaction. As several scientists warned, this was Earth’s wake-up call for a similar event to happen to us.
Recent computer simulations reveal that if a comet or asteroid hit the Earth on one side, the seismic waves generated would be transmitted through the planetary interior. By being focused on account of the Earth’s curvature, the waves would meet together at the location directly on the opposite side where the impact took place, and the high stress energy released could disrupt the surface area, causing a tremendous outpouring of volcanic activity.
The air blast resulting from an impact would lead to large-scale and worldwide pressure shock waves oscillating the entire atmosphere and ionosphere, creating winds greater than the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded.
Fragments of the asteroid and earth hurled into space by the impact would rain down all over the planet, setting forest fires. The resulting smoke would further darken the atmosphere, plunging the world into permanent night. The temperature would plummet.
Calculating the amount of dust, water vapour and smoke injected into the sky from a kilometre wide object hitting the Earth, scientists estimate a drop of world temperatures by about 15 degrees Celsius lasting for about 15 days.
By far the worst-case scenario is an asteroid or comet striking one of the world’s deep oceans. Some researchers worry the sudden displacement of such large volumes of water across thousands of kilometres of ocean would affect the axis spin and polar stability of the Earth, like adding an off-balancing weight to a spinning gyroscope. Even more disastrous would be a celestial object furrowed into the ocean at a more oblique angle. In this case the energy of the mass dissipates by pushing a titanic amount of water over a large surface area, creating a tsunami wave so high and large in size as to defy imagination.
As a tsunami wave reaches nearer to a coast with a shallower continental shelf, its speed slows down, but its height is increased by a factor of 10 to 40. Thus a deep ocean wave of 100 metres might break ashore with a height of 1,000 to 4,000 metres.
A major earthquake triggered off the coast of Chile in May 1960 generated waves in the deep water of the Pacific travelling a full 150 degrees around the globe, or more than 16,000 kilometres distance, landing ashore in Japan at a height of up to 4.5 metres, and killing over 200 people. Earlier, in 1946, a similar event took place when a tsunami originating in the Aleutians killed a handful of people along the nearby Alaskan shores, yet also went on to take the lives of 150 people in Hawaii 8,000 kilometres away. Computer projections indicate that a 9-metre asteroid impacting the ocean between Australia and New Zealand would produce tsunamis breaking on the southern Japanese coastline at 38 to 50 metres high.
That large asteroids have hit the Pacific before is evident from geological remains on the islands within its perimeter. Deposits of unconsolidated corals have been found almost a thousand feet above the present coasts on Lanai, Hawaii, Oahu, Molokai and Maui, indicating they were washed up to that height by a tremendous wave of water in the distant past. Ordinary tsunamis generated by earthquakes along the Ring of Fire do not produce waves of that magnitude – only a major displacement of ocean waters from an impact event would fit the findings.
The Atlantic Ocean is also in danger. Estimates are an impact anywhere in the Atlantic by an asteroid 365 metres wide would devastate coasts on either side with tsunami waves 60 metres high. Major cities either on the coast or with river, bay or harbor accesses such as New York, Boston, Washington, London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are in danger of being completely obliterated.
A computer simulation of an asteroid impact tsunami developed by scientists at the University of California shows waves as high as 120 metres sweeping onto the Atlantic Coast of the United States.
The researchers based their simulation on a real asteroid known to be on course for a close encounter with Earth eight centuries from now.
March 16, 2880, is the day the asteroid known as “1950 DA”, a huge rock 1.2 kilometres in diameter, is due to swing so close to Earth it could slam into the Atlantic Ocean at 60,000 kilometres per hour.
“From a geologic perspective, events like this have happened many times in the past. Asteroids the size of 1950 DA have probably struck the Earth about 600 times since the age of the dinosaurs,” warns researcher Steven Ward.
Impact Events Linked to Evolution of Life on Earth
It is known the Earth was pummelled by asteroids, comets and other massive heavenly bodies in the early days of its formation – over 3 billion years ago. But, until recently, most scientists thought this was an event limited to Earth’s distant past. They also believed the ancient celestial pounding eventually gave way to billions of years of gradual, non-catastrophic evolution.
In the 1950s, astronomer Gene Shoemaker sent shock waves through the scientific community by suggesting various craters on our planet (and the Moon) were formed by asteroids or comets, rather than volcanic eruptions, which was what most scientists believed at the time.
There doesn’t appear to be one square kilometre of the lunar surface that is not pockmarked with impact craters. While some craters are undoubtedly very ancient, they also contain within their rims a myriad of newer craters from more recent impacts.
The reason why craters do not remain visible on Earth is due to their swift erosion by rain, snow, and wind, whereas on the Moon they remain for eons until a new projectile strikes the scar zone.
Using the Moon’s potholed surface as a reference point, Shoemaker tried to determine how often celestial objects smashed into the Moon and, by extension, struck the Earth. With the help of modern satellite and aerial surveillance, Shoemaker and other scientists soon identified over 200 impact sites around the planet.
In 1980 scientists Luis and Walter Alvarez claimed they had found evidence of a huge impact event 65 million years ago. This age corresponded with the demise of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The evidence included a worldwide layer of clay with high levels of the rare element iridium, usually the signature of an impact.
In 1990, the buried remains of a 180-kilometre-diameter crater were discovered near the town of Chicxulub on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. A crater this size would have been blasted out by a 16-kilometre-wide comet or asteroid colliding with the Earth at some 80,000 kph.
Some scientists now believe this crater as the long sought-after “smoking gun” responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs and more than 70 percent of Earth’s living species 65 million years ago.
In June 2003 Science published a report about a team of scientists who believe a massive object from space smashed into what is now the Moroccan desert 380 million years ago. Dates for the impact coincide with the “Kacak/otomari” extinction, when up to 40% of all animals living in the sea perished. Fossils found in rock layers just above the impact layer suggest many new species appeared after the disaster.
And in November 2003, another team of scientists reported on evidence for a massive asteroid colliding with the Earth 251 million years ago which may have killed 90 per cent of all life.
The study, based on meteorite fragments found in Antarctica, suggests the Permian-Triassic event, perhaps the greatest extinction in the planet’s history, may have been triggered by a mountain-sized space rock that smashed into a southern land mass.
“It appears to us that the two largest mass extinctions in Earth history... were both caused by catastrophic collisions” with asteroids, the researchers say in their study in Science.
The evidence indicates asteroid impacts are the key factors in the development of life on this planet. In wiping out a large proportion of life on the planet periodically, the asteroids have played a more important role in evolutionary development than previously thought.
More pertinent is the question of cosmic impacts on the rise and fall of mankind’s ancient civilisations. Is there any evidence backing up the stories of ancient apocalypse and hell fire from the sky that are preserved in mythology and some of the world’s religions?
Collapse of Civilisation
...and the seven judges of hell ... raised their torches, lighting the land with their livid flame. A stupor of despair went up to heaven when the god of the storm turned daylight into darkness, when he smashed the land like a cup.
– An account of the Deluge from the Epic of Gilgamesh, circa 2200 BCE
Biblical stories, apocalyptic visions, ancient art and scientific data all seem to intersect at around 2350 BCE, when one or more catastrophic events wiped out several advanced societies in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Archaeological findings show that in the space of a few centuries, many sophisticated civilisations disappeared. The Old Kingdom in Egypt fell into ruin. The Akkadian culture of Iraq, thought to be the world’s first empire, collapsed.
Around the same time apocalyptic writings appeared. The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the fire, brimstone and flood of possibly real, not mythical, events. Omens predicting the Akkadian collapse preserve a record that “many stars were falling from the sky.” The “Curse of Akkad,” dated to about 2200 BCE, speaks of “flaming potsherds raining from the sky.”
In 1650, the Irish Archbishop James Ussher mapped out the chronology of the Bible – a feat that included stringing together all the “begats” to count generations – and put Noah’s great flood at 2349 BCE.
All coincidence? A number of scientists don’t think so.
Mounting hard evidence collected from tree rings, soil layers and even dust that long ago settled to the ocean floor indicates there were widespread environmental nightmares in the Near East during this period: Abrupt cooling of the climate, sudden floods and surges from the seas, huge earthquakes.
In 1999 geologist Dr. Sharad Master spotted a 3-kilometre-wide crater in southern Iraq after studying satellite images. Scientists now believe this circular depression bears all the hallmarks of an impact crater, one that caused devastating fires and flooding. They are now attempting to date the time of the impact, with some of the main researchers estimating an age of around 6,000 years – placing it in the close vicinity of the sudden decline in Middle East civilisation around 2300 BCE.
Mike Baillie, professor of palaeoecology at Queens University in Belfast and author of Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets, figures it would have taken just a few bad years to destroy societies.
Even a single comet impact large enough to have created the Iraqi crater, “would have caused a mini nuclear winter with failed harvests and famine, bringing down any agriculture based populations which can survive only as long as their stored food reserves,” Baillie says. “So any environmental downturn lasting longer than about three years tends to bring down civilisations.”
Professor Mike Baillie is an authority on dendrochronology, the science of studying tree growth rings. His decades long collaborative effort with many scientists has developed a worldwide record of climate modulated, annual tree growth as recorded in tree growth rings. That effort has produced a reliable timeline from the present back to several thousand years BCE.
Occasionally environmental conditions are so extreme that trees all over the world are affected. Certain of these patterns imply weather conditions leading to local or worldwide catastrophes, including crop failures, famine and flooding.
As described in Exodus to Arthur, the dates linked to extreme events are: 3195 BCE, 2354 BCE, 1628 BCE, 1159 BCE, 207 BCE, 44 BCE, and 540 CE.
The significance of the date 2354 BCE has been noted. The other date to stand out is 540 CE, with the extreme weather events actually starting in 536 CE.
Until recently, historians had little notion dramatic climatic events had occurred. The accounts left by contemporary observers were poorly understood and overshadowed by later historical events. In fact, those later events, it turns out, may have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the weather of the time.
The Praetorian Prefect Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, who lived between 490 and 585 CE, wrote a letter documenting the conditions. “All of us are observing, as it were, a blue coloured sun; we marvel at bodies which cast no mid-day shadow, and at that strength of intensest heat reaching extreme and dull tepidity... So we have had a winter without storms, spring without mildness, summer without heat... The seasons have changed by failing to change; and what used to be achieved by mingled rains cannot be gained from dryness only.”
In the wake of this inexplicable darkness, crops failed and famine struck. Then a new disease swept across the entire continent of Eurasia: bubonic plague. It ravaged Europe over the course of the next century, reducing the population of the Roman empire by a third, killing four-fifths of the citizens of Constantinople, reaching as far east as China and as far northwest as Great Britain.
Other reports about the weather conditions from Byzantine and Constantinople record the same environmental phenomena such as dry fog, darkness, cold, drought, and famine.
In 1984, Mike Baillie proposed that the climatic event of 536 CE (and by extension, all six of the others) could have been caused by “an asteroid, a comet, cometary fragment(s), or cosmic swarms.”
Perhaps one of the most fascinating and well researched theories is offered by authors Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas in their book Uriel's Machine: The Prehistoric Technology That Survived The Flood.
They present recent geological evidence showing that in 7640 BCE Earth was hit by seven comet fragments causing gigantic tidal waves. These findings are derived from the work of Austrian geologists Alexander and Edith Tollmann of Vienna University's Geological Institute.
By combining evidence from various disciplines (including the global distribution of tektites and a study of worldwide myths and legends), the Tollmanns propose that a comet approached the Earth from the south-east and fragmented into seven pieces which fell subsequently into the oceans causing mass destruction on all continents. One piece is believed to have landed in the North Atlantic, while another is considered to have fallen into “the Central Atlantic south of the Azores” creating a direct hit on “Atlantis”.
According to the authors of Uriel's Machine, there is a Masonic tradition that the biblical character Enoch constructed a machine to predict comets on an Earth collision course. They believe the ancient Book of Enoch describes how this machine should be constructed, and how this secret technology has been preserved since ancient times in Freemasonic lore.
The fall of ancient civilisations may now come to be viewed not as a failure of social engineering or political might but rather the product of climate change and, possibly, heavenly happenstance.
The Bible and other ancient texts have kept alive the memory of ancient catastrophes whose scientific analysis and understanding might now be vital for the protection of our own civilisations from future impacts.
These concerns are probably why the European Space Agency’s chief scientist wants a “Noah’s Ark” on the Moon, in case life on Earth is wiped out by an asteroid or nuclear holocaust.
“If there were a catastrophic collision on Earth or a nuclear war, you could place some samples of Earth’s biosphere, including humans, [on the Moon],” said Dr. Bernard Foing. “You could repopulate the Earth afterwards, like a Noah’s Ark.”
At this point, only two things are certain: The Earth could be hit at any moment by a roving asteroid or comet, and we will be hit, again, unless something is done to prevent it.
Jason Jeffrey holds an interest in a wide range of subjects including geopolitics, the "New World Order", Big Brother, suppressed technology, psychic/spiritual development, ancient civilisations and esotericism. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The above article appeared in
New Dawn No. 87 (November-December 2004)