Keeping it above the (asteroid) belt.

Let’s hope this is an anomaly, and not a sign of what is to come over the next two months, but it looks like the campaign for Mayor is starting to get a little nasty.

There is a lot of veiled language in those exchanges through the media, and I think it is up to me, as an completely independent voter and someone in no way qualified to attach assumptions to anyone else’s use of language to provide a bit of clarity about that everyone is talking about here.

Here is what everyone is talking about, and what these euphemisms really mean:

An asteroid is generally reserved now for rocky bodies in the inner solar system, almost all found within the “asteroid belt” between Mars and Jupiter. Small rocky objects further out are generally classified as Kupier-Belt objects or Trans-Neptunian objects, etc. based on where they are located. Asteroids are different than comets in that the latter are in highly elliptical orbits and feature “tails” of off-gassing volatiles when they get close enough to the sun to facilitate sublimation.

Although they range from dust size, a few asteroids are very large: Ceres is the third largest “dwarf planet” (after the trans-Neptunian object Eris and former-planet Pluto), and is big enough to have collapsed into a sphere under its own gravity. It is about 1/10th the size of our own moon, but it is an asteroid nonetheless.

Clearly, the Crosty press release did not fairly characterize asteroids. It is unlikely any “dirt” would be found on an asteroid (“dirt” is usually reserved for organic materials or organic-mineral mixes, like soil), and asteroids do not roam aimlessly through space, but have been locked in stable orbits around the sun for billions of years. That said, a small group of asteroids in the inner solar system are in orbits that may occasionally intersect the Earth. Small ones will form shooting stars, large ones will cause catastrophic destruction on the planet.

Now, we all know “shooting stars” are not stars at all, but are small objects entering earth’s atmosphere and falling to earth so fast that they cause a superheated shockwave in the air in front of them, and heat up to thousands of degrees. The majority of these “shooting starts” were previously asteroids, although most are dust-sized, with very few as big as a baseball. These burn up 100km above the surface, and only glow for a few seconds at most before they completely vapourize. Only the rarest, largest, and brightest “shooting stars” survive to make on impact on the earth. And very much fewer of these create a big enough impact to be destructive.

But you can’t have a destructive asteroid without if first becoming a shooting star, even for a brief moment.

I think in politics, it is important that we define our terms, especially when someone plays the asteroid card.

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