Keep calm, it’s only 2012 DA14 causing interference

COMMENT: A move in the right direction but still not a win for all

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Sadly, my gaze was not tilted heavenwards the other Saturday evening so I missed the display of celestial fireworks caused by a meteorite marking its glorious passage across the night sky.

Had I witnessed such cosmic coruscation, I would have resisted the temptation to do what hundreds did – phone the police.

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, I’m not sure what the best efforts of the local constabulary could have achieved.

Secondly, I would have flinched at the cynical barbs certain to have been aimed in my direction.

‘What’s that you say sir? You’ve seen a bright light streaking across the sky over Hetton-le-Hole and you’d like me to find out what’s going on?

‘Certainly sir. If you’ll just hold the line, I’ll jump into my space rocket and pop up for a look. Evenin’ all.’

It seems heavenly bodies (like people) prefer to make an exhibition of themselves on Saturday nights, because on February 15 next year a lump of rock half the size of a football pitch is due to pass just 17,000 miles from Earth.

The orbit of the asteroid (or 2012 DA14 as it’s been catchily named) will take it beneath some communication satellites and with any luck could impair reception of Match of the Day.

On behalf of police forces everywhere, I’d like to issue a plea for people to remain calm if this happens.

Because seeing the smug faces of Messrs Lineker, Hansen and Shearer reduced to sizzling interference is a price well worth paying.

There are more than 20,000 asteroids and comets within striking distance of Earth, and I’d like to know why none of them has been given a name.

After all, we’re quick enough to bestow cosy monikers upon other forces of nature, like hurricanes.

Asteroid Susan or Comet Nigel sounds far friendlier than an arbitrary and sinister string of numbers and letters.

But it’s their big brothers and sisters we should be concerned about.

Apparently, there are 981 ‘planet-killer’ objects orbiting Earth – and Nasa has discovered 911 of them.

It’s the other 70 that worry me...