June 11th, 2015
io9 have started a new series with A Scientist Responds… To Deep Impact:
Premise #3: The giant comet headed towards us was not picked up by any of the agencies or researchers deep-scanning the skies, but a teenager with his backyard telescope did spot it.
The American military can't even keep the orbits of their clandestine spy satellites secret from amateur astronomers for long; a massive comet coming to destroy the planet would absolutely be noticed by everyone else, and the construction of the Messiah spacecraft would've been photographed in detail long before the President's speech.
The deeper problem though seems to be that astronomers in this movie don't actually look at stars. This is remarkably clear when teen astronomer Leo Biederman spontaneously decides the field of view for his telescope is greater than 10 degrees, the distance covered by two fists held at arm's length, and manages to find Alpha Centauri, a star not visible in the northern hemisphere. It doesn't get any better when we switch off to his doomed mentor, Dr. Marcus Wolf. By the time Wolf performs the world's fastest, tidiest orbital determination on virtually no data while munching on pizza before bolting off to make an instantaneous report on a comet that wouldn't arrive for over two years, I've already written him off as an alien from another dimension utterly lacking in night-vision rods in his eyes, an understanding of orbital mechanics, and common sense.
Verdict: No. Just no, not likely at all, and it makes me weep soggy tears for hard-working astronomers everywhere.
Now, let's see them inflict The Core on some poor, unsuspecting sap.