A three-mile-wide asteroid is going to graze past Earth today
In a world that appears to be tip-toeing ever closer toward armageddon, it can be difficult to escape those anxiety-inducing existential questions. I’m talking about questions on our own mortality, the concept that we are always close to a sudden death; except now, the questions that we all explored as angst-ridden teenagers have become more dystopian that ever.
Now we ponder, not just our own existence, but that of the rest of the human race. With several of the world’s foremost military powers seemingly poised to incite a catastrophic nuclear war, can’t be a surprise that many of us are feeling more than a little pessimistic about humanity’s chances of survival.
Indeed, it was only recently that the legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking advised us that, all things considered, it would be advisable for humanity to pack up its belongings and, well, leave planet Earth within the next 100 years - a mere waft of a butterfly's wings evolutionary speaking.
Hawking cited “climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth" as existential threats to humanity, and it appears that, today, we will come relatively close to one of those grim possibilities - an asteroid strike.
It has been reported that a colossal asteroid is set to pass fairly nearby planet Earth today.
The asteroid, named Florence will be the largest in more than a century to pass by our planet, at a distance of 4.4 million miles, according to NASA.
In a statement, Paul Chados, the manager of NASA's Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies said;
"While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on September 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller.
"Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began."
Florence is believed to measure almost 3 miles in diameter, meaning the consequences for planet Earth in the eventuality of a collision could prove utterly disastrous, though it is not believed to on course for such an eventuality for centuries yet.
The course of Florence past Earth represents an opportunity for scientists to study the asteroid at relatively close quarters; there are plans in place to examine Florence using ground-based radar imaging in Puerto Rico and California, reports the BBC.
It seems, more and more, that the notion of colonising another planet is becoming less a preoccupation of science-fiction and more an attainable reality.
Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and visionary, for example has detailed his own ambition to colonise Mars in a bid to preserve humanity past any existential end game. The journey, of course, will not be without risks; Musk himself admitted last year while describing his own hopes for the human colonisation of Mars that the “risk of fatality will be high” during the first trip to Mars and that any participants would have to be willing to accept the not inconsiderable risks associated with such a pursuit.
The future: we're living right in the middle of it.