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An asteroid is coming! An asteroid is coming! And Petit Poulet is worried!

December 11, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • In the movie "Deep Impact," a wayward comet hits Earth, causing massive destruction.
In the movie "Deep Impact," a wayward comet hits Earth, causing… (Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks…)

Forget the “fiscal cliff.” And global warming. Heck, forget about what to get your wife for Christmas.

It’s time to start worrying about Toutatis.

Asteroid 4179, a.k.a. Toutatis, is heading our way, again. 

OK, sure, the mountain-size space rock won’t hit us this time -- scientists say that sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, it will come within 18 lunar distances of Earth. (For all those who don’t work at JPL and/or aren’t named Carl Sagan, that’s 18 times the distance between Earth and the moon, or 4.3 million miles.)

And that’s not even the closest it’s come; in 2004, for example, the asteroid, which passes by Earth about every four years, came within about four lunar distances.

So why am I in a panic? 

Because, buried deep in my colleague Deborah Netburn’s article Tuesday is this little nugget:

“Toutatis is not expected to collide with Earth for at least 600 more years.”

Excuse me?  Republicans are frantic about the debt and how our children and grandchildren will have to eat gruel their entire lives; Democrats fret about climate change and how we’re all going to be boiled alive in a couple of hundred years. And now I find out that in 2612 or thereabouts, the Mayans will finally be right?

All together now: We’ve got to do something!

Go ahead, call me Chicken Little. But here’s what the guy who found the thing thought:

It was first seen in 1934, and then lost for decades. It was rediscovered by Christian Pollas in 1989. He gave it the name Toutatis, after the Gaulish God featured prominently in the French animated series "Les aventures d'Asterix." The series tells the stories of two heroes living in 50 BC who fear nothing but the sky falling on their heads.

Ha ha -- those French! What a sense of humor. No wonder they love Jerry Lewis.

So call me Petit Poulet instead. I’m still worried the thing’s going to fall on our heads.

Elon Musk of SpaceX recently floated the idea of colonizing Mars. He said the Red Planet could be a lifeboat for Earth.

Turns out, Elon, we now have a better idea when we might need that lifeboat.  

Is it too early to book seats for a couple of future Whitefields?


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