Quick dust off that Armageddon DVD

Yes, Armageddon  is getting a 200th breath of fresh references over the discovery of a comet Called Elenin. Now the internet is a breeding ground for complete hysteria when it comes to a subject that is only really covered by Hollywood. But comets and asteroids bring out the crazy in us all.

Take for example Halley’s comet. Now it appears in the sky around once every 75-76 years, it’s appearance has been seen as an omen since our earliest ancestors observed it over their campfires. It was seen in the skies over England in 1066, over the near east in 1222 when the Khan, Genghis turned west to wreak havoc on Europe. As our knowledge increased and the comets went from disturbances in the atmosphere (first promoted by Aristotle) to objects beyond the moon proved by Tyco Brahe. With the publication of Newtons ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ and the follow-up work of his friend Edmund Halley who finally determined that one comet seen over a long period of time was one comet, halley’s comet.

The 1910 appearance was a first in that we could photograph the comet and more importantly, take spectograph readings from it to determine what it was made up of. However this was slightly overshadowed by the discovery of Cyanogen in the tail of the comet. Which then led french astronomer  Camille Flammarion to claim that it would enter the atmosphere and poison us all. So sales of gas-masks went up, and companies started selling “anti-comet” pills. Obviously nothing came of it, life went on, sure the comet was blamed for massive flooding in Paris as the seine burst its banks but that was more to do with bad weather and poor planning than astronomical calamity.

With our ability to track comets and asteroids you would think that in the latter years of the 20th century we would be rational enough to take stock of findings and come to a calm and intelligent conclusion. In 1997 the passage of the Hale Bopp comet resulted in a mass suicide as the heavens gate cult killed themselves to beam to a spaceship hiding behind the comet, a “contactee” (someone who can communicate with aliens) claimed it was a distraction from the arrival of Planet X, a claim that is now closely tied in with the 2012 rubbish spouted on the internet and now hollywood

Comet Hale Bopp

News this week concerned the comet C/2010 X1 Elenin and the belief that it will hit the Earth (a so called Niburu collision, which just to tie it up with the bit on Hale Bopp may be the so called “planet X) Elenin is named after the discoverer Leonid Elenin and not as some websites claim, a thinly veiled code for Extinction level event. Which handily references the other asteroid movie ‘Deep impact’.

Astronomer and Blogger Ian Musgrave has a handy FAQ on his website which debunks most of the myths about the comet which is available here. However to condense it down for you, Yes it’s a comet and not a brown dwarf of planet X, it won’t hit the earth as it will be around 94 MILLION miles from earth at it’s closest. The reason it’s not being put up on NASA, BBC, CNN or any other news organisation isn’t because of government suppression. Last year there were over 16 comets discovered, Elenin isn’t special except on the darker corners of the internet.

Of course the bastion of truth that is the media have been quick to jump on this, one example comes from our old friends at the daily mail, who didn’t want to go down the “we’re all going to die” route but instead dug up a proposed mission by the ESA named “Don Quixote”  which incidentally has been on the drawing board for 6 years. The mission will see a small impactor slam into the asteroid (the favorite candidate at the minute is the other darling of the doomsayers 99942 Apophis) the orbiting probe will then make readings on the asteroid to see what impact the small probe has mainly on the orbit of the asteroid. Not to be outdone the Chinese are proposing that they launch an impactor mission to Apophis to nudge it out the way. And the beauty of space is that it doesn’t require a massive blow to alter it’s course.

The Daily Mail however didn’t quite read the rather comprehensive ESA page on the mission, mistakenly believing that they were going to blow it up, which by the way is the absolute worst thing you can do to a massive block of rock heading your way. They also referenced the Armageddon movie far too many times including a large picture of Bruce as he’s about to “step outside”  infact there is so many references to the conspiracy and the movies one wonders whether this article belongs in the “entertainment” section.

As for the deflection missions. Let’s just hope they hit the right spot.

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