In the final quarter of the twenty-first century, the asteroid Ceres, diameter 768 kilometres, was forced out of its orbit between Mars and Jupiter by the gravitational field of a rogue comet. NASA’s computation of the asteroid’s flight path showed it headed directly towards Earth, with the likelihood of collision getting a score of 10 on the Torino scale. Meaning an almost-certain disaster a thousand times worse than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs and other life of the Mesozoic era. Worse, the impact would very likely knock Earth off its near-circular path round the sun into an elliptical orbit. With the extremities of the ellipse’s axes being either too distant from the sun or too near to permit life.
Efforts were made to change the asteroid’s course by firing nuclear missiles at it. That did not work. A group of volunteer astronauts landed on Ceres and tried to alter its track by operating ion thruster engines from it. The men perished, the asteroid’s path remained unchanged. And it became evident that only another cosmic event would alter Ceres’s flight path.
Another cosmic happening did not occur; and Ceres hurtled into naked eyesight on the last day of September 2087 like a gigantic rocket. At a height of 500 kilometres it began to emit the red glow of burning hydrogen. Behind it streamed a 100 kilometre trail of burning gases. Within a minute it entered the densest part of Earth’s atmosphere and blew up. Two gigantic sections, each weighing thousands of millions of tonnes, struck Earth. One plunged into the Pacific off the Phoenix Islands, and the other hit the Asian land mass around Khyzl, capital of the little known Republic of Tuva bordering north-western Mongolia. Some fragments, weighing a million times and more impacted Europe, North and South America, Australia and Antarctica.
|Appears in Collections:||SR Vol.47(03) [March 2010]|
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