Don't Miss Your Chance to Preview Our Coming Destruction
This may not be the most conventional way to spend your afternoon, but it might be one of the most interesting. From Popular Science:
Although not nearly as threatening as it was first perceived to be upon its discovery [when it was estimated to have a 2.7 percent chance of hitting earth], the asteroid 99942 Apophis still has a very slight chance of impacting our planet on Friday, April 13, 2036. It will get closer to Earth this year, giving astronomers a chance to refine its trajectory for good and know whether we're in trouble. And you can get a glimpse of it online [today], courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.
First reaction: thank God it's an exceedingly slight chance. Second reaction: Wait ... it's a slight chance on a Friday the 13th.
[Edit: As EJ notes below, PopSci got the date wrong. April 13, 2036 is actually a Sunday. I don't have a joke for that, however, so I'm explaining instead of redacting].
The 27-megaton asteroid has a diameter of roughly three football fields, and would pack a society-ending punch if it really impacted Earth. So astronomers are interested in nailing down its trajectory and characteristics.
I love the perceived need to add that bit of clarity with the second sentence. Third reaction: please let us have elected Morgan Freeman president by then.
One final bit of color:
It is named for the Egyptian god Apep the Uncreator, who tried to swallow the sun god Ra as he crossed the sky. The Greeks called him Apophis, and he personified death, destruction and chaos.
Ok, can we get the science nerds a little coin on the side naming military operations? They're bringing their A-game.
Fourth and final reaction: I want a chain of custody on the money that's going into establishing how real of a threat this is. This feels an awful lot like Paul Krugman's desperate last stab at getting that extra stimulus money he wanted.