Asteroid Day and Nigeria’s importance – Part 2
Actually, the question is not whether a Tunguska-type airburst will occur: But rather, when might a more destructive asteroid target Nigeria or elsewhere in the region.
It needs to be stressed, in this regard, that only Nigeria, as presently constituted, has even the slightest possibility of developing a credible space defense system.
A mini-state, such as the ones secessionists are agitating for, can never attain the industrial and technological capability required to defend itself, speak less of West Africa.
Asteroids hit Earth continually, making a potentially deadly encroachment inevitable, down the line. Thus the break-up of Nigeria would effectively doom everyone—including secessionists. Nor can we rely on the “goodwill” of the industrialized states, for our survival. These nations are building asteroid defenses, against either a direct hit on themselves or a global-scale impact—not for us!
Asteroids are solid masses of various sizes and shapes, orbiting in the same counterclockwise sense as the Sun’s eight planets. Concentrated within the whirling belt of debris, are countless billions of stony, iron-nickel and stony-iron fragments, or meteoroids, pebble-sized to Ceres (a 940 km wide dwarf planet).
Most impacting masses originate ultimately from this region, which is located between Mars and Jupiter. But not all. Fragments from the Moon and Mars, also collide with Earth occasionally. Potential impactors from the asteroid belt, become Near Earth Objects, after interacting gravitationally with Mars (and/or Jupiter)—and getting kicked inward, towards Earth.
According to NASA, in-falling meteoroids smaller than about 25 meters usually burn up, from atmospheric friction. We see the light these vaporizing solids emit, as meteors, or “shooting stars”.
More massive chunks of rock and metal survive the searing atmospheric plunge, and land on Earth’s surface as meteorites. “Every year,” NASA’s History Office reminds us, “thousands of cosmic bodies bombard the Earth’s atmosphere, with a few hundred surviving the journey…”
On average, says Wikipedia, two 20-meter asteroids strike Earth each century, producing airbursts with greater energy than the Hiroshima bomb. Impactors having larger diameters, create craters.
In fact, investigators have found 188 terrestrial craters, most of them since 1950. They reportedly discover new ones every year. Africa hosts two of the ten biggest—South Africa’ s Vredefort Dome, the world’ s largest impact crater, and Morokweng, sixth biggest.
The International Society for Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences, reports 18 Nigerian meteorite falls, between 1903 and 2006. Eyewitnesses have observed three strikes, within the last five years. These, of course, were small objects. But meteorites are like mammals: When you see infants, the parents are usually somewhere around!
“Parents,” in this case, refers to asteroids larger than one-to-two km across which, NASA postulates, “could have worldwide effects”.
Not incidentally, NASA notes too, that if a rocky meteoroid bigger than 25 meters, but smaller than one km, were to hit Earth, it would wreak local or regional, instead of global, havoc. The survival interest of the spacefaring nations, does not require that they expend resources to destroy or divert an asteroid, on a trajectory that makes Nigeria or the sub-region its target.
Whether they would do so, is beside the point. It is patently foolhardy, to hinge one’s fate on the goodwill of others.
Strategic planning must always be based on a worse-case scenario: Anticipate the most undesirable outcome, and prepare for it. True, Nigeria is far from being able to protect itself, or the sub-region, from the threat of a destructive asteroid impact.
But it has infinitely more potential for building that capacity, than any of the preposterous mini-states, currently being proposed.