And as in that spectacular movie, the seemingly innocent distant traveller has a calculated trajectory that brings it quite close to Earth on October 16, 2011.
This thing a true Speedy Gonzales: It is small, only 3 to 4 kilometers in diameter with about 100.000 km long coma. When it was discovered in December 2010 comet Elenin was about 647 million kilometers from us but in May 4 2011 the distance was only 274 million kilometers. That means it flew about one hundred million kilometers in a month and we all understand that a direct hit by such a space bullet would be a Deep Impact indeed.
Mr Richard C. Hoagland has already issued grim warnings about the consequences of our close encounter with this intelligent space visitor with truly bad intentions. (What is wrong with this seemingly very gifted and intelligent man?)
Calculated trajectory of Comet Elenin NASA
NASA has published a spectacular animation showing the estimated path of comet Elenin. It will be closest to Earth on October 16, 2011 about 35 million kilometers from us. Not nice if there is a smallest error in scientific calculations here - the zeros and commas matter for once!
But alas! For all doomsday prophets and us amateur astronomers waiting for a great show, Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California says:
"We're talking about how a comet looks as it safely flies past us. Some cometary visitors arriving from beyond the planetary region – like Hale-Bopp in 1997 -- have really lit up the night sky where you can see them easily with the naked eye as they safely transit the inner-solar system. But Elenin is trending toward the other end of the spectrum. You'll probably need a good pair of binoculars, clear skies, and a dark, secluded location to see it even on its brightest night."
Large space object hits Earth. An artists view.
So we can sigh in relief - this one will pass... we pray and hope.
But there once was a direct hit and the space bullet is buried deep on Earth's crust under Mexican Gulf.
According to current understanding this flying rock hit Earth directly near the Yucatan peninsula some 68 million years ago. The impact caused climatic change, a long winter caused by dense dust clouds, that cooled the earth and destroyed much of the biologically so rich and varied Mesozoic life. Especially important for us is that those magnificent animals, dinosaurs lost their rule in this planet and gave way to us, the much weaker furry mammals. Dinos apparently survive as birds, as we call them in English..
Life on our planet was significantly transformed by this huge stone that had started its journey in the Kuiper belt some 160 million years earlier.