My editor wrote this past week to let me know she’s back at work on The Astronomer’s Crypt, my tale of what happens when frightening humans, supernatural creatures, and astronomers collide at an observatory during a terrifying storm that knocks out all the power. I’ve spoken a bit about ghost sightings at the observatory, but sometimes we deal with things even more frightening than ghosts. This last week, I spent a night working a team from the University of Arizona’s Spacewatch program, who came up to the Kitt Peak 4-meter to look for Near-Earth Objects or NEOs. Tame as that name is, NEOs are basically those objects that could collide with the Earth, ending life as we know it. Here’s the team at work in the control room.
The folks in the image are Bob McMillan and Jim Scotti. We were working on a full-moon night, which really isn’t optimal, but because we had a large telescope with good image resolution, we could look objects when other telescopes might not. This allows Bob and Jim to calculate more precise orbits than if they only observed closer to new moon.
The Spacewatch Program is part of a nationwide search trying to identify all objects in the solar system 140-meters or bigger. As it turns out, small asteroids present a hazard just because they’re numerous. Large asteroids are a hazard because of the amount of damage they can cause. 140-meters was determined as an intersection between these classes of asteroids. There’s no question a 140-meter asteroid would do damage. To give you an idea of how big that is, it’s about three times the size of the 17-story tall building we were sitting in:
As it turns out, I have written a story about Spacewatch identifying an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. In this story set in the not-too-distant future, our heroes successfully destroy the asteroid, but there are unintended consequences. The story was featured in Wondrous Web Worlds, Volume 7, which you can find at Hadrosaur Productions or the Alban Lake Bookstore while you’re waiting for The Astronomer’s Crypt. I hope to have more news soon!