The organizers of Asteroid Day want humanity to band together to create better asteroid-tracking technology, but I relish it mostly as a chance to reckon, for at least one day of the year, with my own feelings of terror and awe. An asteroid is a caricature of everything I fear but cannot control. And Asteroid Day gives me permission to indulge this spectacle of imagined global catastrophe. It is a day for a collective heave of what if. What if humanity was obliterated by a conspiracy between a giant rock, gravity and random chance? What if, instead of climate change or nuclear winter, we were delivered that deus ex machina?
Unlike the typical Hollywood CGI depictions of asteroid impacts, where an extraterrestrial charcoal briquette gently smolders across the sky, in the Yucatan it would have been a pleasant day one second and the world was already over by the next. As the asteroid collided with the earth, in the sky above it where there should have been air, the rock had punched a hole of outer space vacuum in the atmosphere. As the heavens rushed in to close this hole, enormous volumes of earth were expelled into orbit and beyond — all within a second or two of impact.
“So there’s probably little bits of dinosaur bone up on the moon,” I asked.
Above: A poem from my book, Newspaper Blackout