Hungry Hungry Asteroid

By Phil Plait | February 11, 2011 7:00 am

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about some news media falsely reporting that the asteroid Apophis might hit the Earth in 2036. In that post I used a picture drawn by a friend of mine, Dan Durda, showing an asteroid with a spacecraft near it:

The asteroid is actually a model Dan built based on Eros, a different near-Earth asteroid, and the spacecraft is a possible design of a gravity tug, an idea for a craft that might be able to tow potentially dangerous rocks into safe orbits.

Anyway, BABloggee Kai Baumbach saw something a little different in that picture. He fixed it up and sent it to me:

Aha! I should’ve seen that myself. But what does it mean?

Could this be the first sign of a sub-Saharan river-dwelling mammal on its way to Earth? Are aliens actually herbivorous quadrapeds? Could we be in serious danger from the hypervelocity impact from an artiodactyl?

Hmmm. I think perhaps this sums up my thoughts best:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, DeathfromtheSkies!, Humor

Comments (49)

  1. Jay

    Could Apophis be a companion to the Spaghetti Monster? I sense a new sect coming about. Prepare the temple!

  2. DennyMo

    Maybe it’s another Probe, this time coming to talk to the hippoes. (Hippoes? Hippos? I always forget.)

  3. VJBinCT

    Ought to be a turtle with a bunch of elephants, to conform to reality.

  4. The sad part is the hippo will perpetually seek to NOM the spacecraft tug, but it will never succeed…

  5. Kyle

    Hmmm hippodolia?

  6. Erin N.

    Hippos, whether terrestrial or astronomical, are awesome. Love this post =)

  7. Martha

    That one picture makes it look like there is a new constellation called Hippo…….

    Groucho the astrologer says: I see Uranus rising in your Hippo. How it got into your Hippo I”ll never know.

  8. Thameron

    Simply Hippoposterous!

  9. Mooney

    Obviously this shows that the asteroid Apophis is from beyond the reaches of our solar system. The question is, did it come from somewhere in the Eridanus constellation, or from Pegasus?

  10. One Eyed Jack

    I’m not sure what that hippo is up to, but I am NOT cleaning up behind it!

  11. One Eyed Jack

    #5 Erin

    Hippos are merely cool. Narwhals, on the other hand, are awesome!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykwqXuMPsoc

  12. Any American boy above 30 years of age will get the joke implied by your headline.

    I wanted that damn toy for ages, but the jolly fat man never delivered. eBay beckons….

  13. Theramansi

    PHEW!!!

    Thank goodness it isn’t another humpback whale space probe. :p

  14. Jim

    I must not be that creative a person. All i saw was a potato :(

  15. Steve

    And where is George Carlin’s “hippy, dippy weatherman”? He’d have an interesting explanation!

  16. Derek

    Saw on the news this morning on local FOX station, they ran the Apophis asteroid of doom antiscience story claiming the Earth will be destroyed citing the same Russian source as the web articles. The picture was the massively oversized ‘object’ as well.

    Palm meet face. Face meet palm.

  17. Robin Byron

    I can see the HuffPo headline now:

    WILL NEW ASTEROID HIPPOPHIS ANNIHILATE EARTH?
    Dr Phil Plait and Astro-artist Kai Baumbach Team to Uncover Our Demise

  18. Keith Bowden

    It was bad enough when the asteroid was just going to hit us… now we learn that it’s going to eat us too? AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!

    (Waiting for the invasion of the rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots from Rigel…)

  19. First, we need to cover that probe with some animal product. Just remember, “Teacher says a hippo is a vegetarian.”

    DennyMo (1):

    Maybe it’s another Probe, this time coming to talk to the hippoes.

    Well, after they lost contact with the humpback whales, they tried something different.

    Thameron (7):

    Simply Hippoposterous!

    Good thing it’s a frontal view. I’d hate to see the hippoposterior.

    kuhnigget (10):

    I wanted that damn toy for ages, but the jolly fat man never delivered. eBay beckons….

    Why eBay? Just swing by your local toy store, since they still make it.

  20. ChazInMT

    Maybe we should send Skeptical Hippo into space on the last shuttle mission to “Glare Down” any incoming threats to Earth!!!!

  21. Hippos are responsible for more deaths in Africa annually than any other large animals, excluding humans. (Mosquitoes and microscopic organisms are probably responsible for more deaths than even humans.) So having a GIANT SPACE HIPPO approaching the planet is not necessarily better than a planet-killing asteroid.

    Hmmm…Galactus as a GIANT SPACE HIPPO…

  22. jennyxyzzy

    Heh – Hippopareidolia :D

  23. Tim G

    If you think the asteroid’s superficial resemblance to a sub-Saharan river-dwelling mammal doesn’t imply anything of profound cosmological significance, you aren’t being skeptical you’re being hippocritical.

  24. Doesn’t this just prove the existence of dark matter, with 3/4 of the asteroid invisible?

  25. Michel

    Ehmmm… now I´m very very very scared!
    Hippos are very agressive!
    They kill more of us than any other animal!
    Hippos are the most dangerous animal of all animals!

  26. Rory Kent

    Wow, Augustin of Hippo’s sure moved onto some bit things since dying.

  27. Sili

    Please, noöne tell Hoagland.

  28. @ Ken B:

    Why eBay? Just swing by your local toy store, since they still make it.

    Puh-leeze! That would be like buying the “new” version of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, the one with the puny little fighters and the plastic punching mechanisms!

    Besides, I bet the original was loaded with various plastic additives and fun-enhancing toxins that are no longer a feature of the so-called “improved” version. Har-rumph.

  29. Nicole

    Our Hungry Hungry Hippos was confiscated quickly. It is a shockingly noisy game. They don’t show that part in the commercials but it’s just a cacaphony… cacophany… ca… a mess of CLACKCLACKCLACKCLACKITYCLACKCLACK

  30. Improbus

    @Michel

    No, man is the most dangerous animal of all animals. Just ask Earth’s ecosystem and all of the extinct species for the last 12,000 years. Most of those extinctions took place when all we had were stone tools. Humans are totally bad ass.

  31. DennyMo

    28. kuhnigget Says: “Puh-leeze! That would be like buying the “new” version of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, the one with the puny little fighters and the plastic punching mechanisms!”

    My boys got it for Christmas, I have to agree with you. What I miss most is the sound effect when the robot gets rocked, it’s really wimpy. All the reissues are tweaked, few are improved. Hot Wheels finally comes out with orange track and banked turns, but the banked turns are flimsy. New and much more complicated rules with the game of LIFE. CLUE no longer features Col Mustard. Battleship is on a hex grid. (OK, that one kinda works.)

    Oh, wait, this has nothing to do with spacefaring hippos…

  32. Michel

    @30. Improbus
    And we are better in killing humans than any animal. True true.
    But of the animal kingdom hippos really dent us.

  33. Tom K

    Phew! Luckily it’s not an enormous mutant star goat.

  34. John Sandlin

    Hmmm, I don’t know – it looks like Barney the dinosaur come back to finally wipe out those pesky mammals.

    jbs

  35. WJM

    Too small to be a standard hippo; probably one of these:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBfi8OEz0rA

  36. Marrec

    As someone who is irrationally afraid of hippos, I fully endorse a gravity tug to move all hippos out of our solar system.

    That’s what this article is about right?

  37. Messier Tidy Upper

    LOL. :-)

    @2. DennyMo : Hippoes? Hippos? I always forget.

    Hippopotami? I think that’s the correct plural but, natch, could be mistaken.

    @33. Tom K : Phew! Luckily it’s not an enormous mutant star goat.

    What like the constellation of Capricorn is? ;-)

    @20. ChazInMT : Maybe we should send Skeptical Hippo into space on the last shuttle mission to “Glare Down” any incoming threats to Earth!!!!

    Interesting idea & would no doubt set a record for largest creature transported into orbit but I’d hate to be the one cleaning up the shuttle afterwards! Besides where would it fit -in the cargo bay which gets opened into space!? ;-)

  38. Messier Tidy Upper

    @35. WJM : Too small to be a standard hippo; probably one of these

    Too small!? :-o

    I think you mean too *large* don’t you? ;-)

    Classic video though. Thanks. 8)

    I look forward to the day these house hippos are genetically engineered for family homes everywhere! ;-)

  39. Messier Tidy Upper

    Oddly enough, there is already a species of pygmy hippo :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_Hippopotamus

    around and now-sadly-extinct past dwarf species of hippo and elephant existed too.

  40. Sigunas

    It would be great to link to asteroid damage calculator released by Scientists at Purdue University in Indiana and Imperial College London: http://www.purdue.edu/impactearth/
    on any asteroid fear mongering article. A, but then it would not be fear mongering article anymore…

    Sorry, for my english.

  41. Joseph G

    Of course the spacecraft will be called the Near Orbital Mover :D

    On a more serious note, why is it necessary to use an orbital tug in the first place? I imagine they require some time to be effective, and having the thrusters angled so that they don’t impinge upon the asteroid itself is going to waste precious fuel.
    Why not land on the asteroid and just fire an engine until you’re out of propellant?
    For that matter, why not just design the probe so that it splits up into several dozen smaller impactors that all hit the asteroid at the same time? That way, even if it’s a rubble pile, all the big bits will get approximately the same velocity change.

  42. WJM

    Yeah, the other kind of small! Bad brain thingy.

  43. meirelle

    Actually, I was gonna say the asteroid looked like a giant peanut, but whatever.

  44. Shoggoth

    It’s Hippos all the way down!

  45. kenneth torr

    I received this link from my son on a Thursday! How weird!

  46. kenneth torr

    I did not say,”Your comment is awaiting moderation.” You are putting words into mymouth!

  47. kenneth torr

    Itis all the fault of Thurber!

  48. kenneth torr

    What a strange use of the word “moderation”! It is not as if I was swearing. Anyway if no one is well-read enough to know the reference to James Thurber , then I give up!

  49. Matt B.

    That’s “quadruped”.

    As for the gravity tug, wouldn’t it be easier and more effective to plant an ion drive on the asteroid itself and run it during the right part of the rotation period?

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »