Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fact-Sceptics, Take Heed!

Post-modernists and all ye other fact-skeptics take heed: sometimes evidential inference works rather well. Consider this news item:
2008 TC3 [an asteroid in space] was discovered on 6 October by astronomers using the Mt. Lemmon telescope in Arizona.... At 01:45 UTC, JPL scientist Paul Chodas announced, "We estimate that this [asteroid] will enter the Earth's atmosphere at around 2:45:28 UTC [October 7] and reach maximum deceleration around 2:45:54 UTC at an altitude of about 14 km. These times are uncertain by +/-15 seconds or so."
Question: The actual time of entry in the earth's atmosphere?

Answer: The flash accompanying the asteroid's entry into the atmosphere was photographed by satellite at 02:45:47 UTC [October 7]. This was very probably close to the time of maximum deceleration. That's a difference of seven (7) seconds, which is within the +/-15 seconds uncertainty given by JPL scientist Chodas.

Not bad, eh?

Credit: Mohamed Elhassan Abdelatif Mahir (Noub NGO), Dr. Muawia H. Shaddad (Univ. Khartoum), Dr. Peter Jenniskens (SETI Institute/NASA Ames)
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