Comet Elenin, or to be precise, its debris, made its closest pass by Earth on Oct. 16, 2011 without causing any earthquakes, tsunamis, or high tides and it didn’t collide with Earth, either. Strangely, but here was no brown dwarf or Mothership hidden in the Elenin’s coma. Others had sounded even more dire alarms, suggesting that Comet Elenin was not a comet at all but a rogue planet called Nibiru whose Earth encounter could usher in the apocalypse. And in case you didn’t notice, Elenin did not cause three days of darkness around September 26, 2011.
“I don’t know why fearmongers chose my comet,” the comet’s discoverer Leonid Elenin told “I received many letters from scared people. But if they believe in conspiracy theories I can’t help them.”
Conspiracy and doomsday theorists chose this small little comet to be the harbinger of doom. There are enough bad things going on here on planet Earth that conspiracy theorists shouldn’t fabricate doomsday predictions just to needlessly scare people for fun and profit.
What happen? How come we're still alive?
Comet Elenin was discovered in December 2010 by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin. The comet's core likely measured 2 to 3 miles (3 to 5 km) across before it broke up, scientists say. The apocalyptic rumor mill generated by Elenin's arrival on the skywatching scene was completely unwarranted. The comet was far too small to influence Earth gravitationally, and it never posed a danger of hitting our planet. About 2 percent of newly discovered comets disintegrate when making their closest approach to the sun. So Elenin's demise was fairly unremarkable, just like the comet itself.
The comet was predicted to come 34 million km (21 million miles) away at its closest approach. Just in case you can’t figure that out, one object can’t hit another at that distance. Plus, the gravity exerted by a small object won’t affect Earth either. To put this in perspective, this distance is only a little closer than the closest approach of Venus to Earth, and roughly 100 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Nothing happens to Earth when Venus is at closest approach, and Venus is 12,000 kilometers in diameter, while Elenin was 3-5 kilometers across. When the comet was intact it had less than a billionth of the tidal force of the Moon.
Comet Elenin disintegrated. Sometimes, long period comets that originate from the outer parts of our solar system begin to dissipate as they get closer to the Sun. But Elenin was hit by solar flares from the Sun on August 19 and began disintegrating. When it reached its closest point to the Sun on September 10, it basically was toast. Just recently the location of where the comet should be has become visible in the night sky, out of the Sun’s glare. Several images from different amateur astronomers show absolutely nothing. The comet has completely disintegrated and fallen apart.
Astronomer Nick Howes and his colleagues using the 2 meter Faulkes telescope took 30 minutes worth of exposures and saw nothing of Comet Elenin in the sky. What is left of the comet won’t cause problems, either. The average density of a comet’s coma is about the same as the density of the atmosphere on the Moon, and any rocks or debris that might be left over from the comet are small enough that they would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere if Earth does go through the wake of the coma or debris from the comet. And remember, several times a year Earth goes through the debris from comets and all that happens is we get beautiful meteor showers to enjoy.
Next meeting with Comet Elenin (or with its debris) will be for another 12,000 years.But don't worry, there's always another doom tomorrow!
Just a day after bidding farewell to Elenin's crumbs, Earth welcomed another fast-moving visitor to its neighborhood. The small asteroid 2009 TM8 zipped by our planet on Monday morning (Oct. 17), coming much closer than Elenin. The schoolbus-size space rock passed with 212,000 miles (341,000 km) of Earth — just inside the orbit of the moon. Like Elenin, 2009 TM8 never posed a danger of striking us, astronomers said.
Though the propecies about Elenin failed to come true, the apocalyptically minded may not want to leave their bunkers just yet. After all, pseudo-Christian-radio broadcaster Harold Camping says the world will end on Oct. 21, which is this Friday. Using clues he prised from the Bible, Camping originally pegged the Rapture for May 21, 2011, but revised his prediction when that date came and went without apparent incident.
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