Among the many government agencies and functions shut down in the wake of the American Congress' stand-off with President Obama over healthcare, few can send out tweets quite this terrifying to the rest of the world:
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.-- Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
That's right, Nasa's Asteroid Watch twitter account is among those elements of the world's largest space agency which has been forced to close in the wake of the political earthquake occurring in Washington. In practice, that doesn't mean much - there are still astronomers watching for asteroids around the world, and we're still -- by Nasa's admission -- unable to do anything about them either way.
But the reaction has been, if not panicked, at least mildly concerned among those paying attention on Twitter:
@AsteroidWatch But what if we get hit by a rock and you're not there to warn us? Bloody Republicans...-- Idiot/Savant (@norightturnnz) October 1, 2013
Nasa itself is also affected for the duration, with all of its public-facing activities completely shut down.
@NASA welp, if aliens invade we'll be up the intergalactic river without a space paddle.-- Ray K (@kaliforniak) October 1, 2013
Fortunately, there are still many people watching the skies for catastrophic asteroid impacts. The European Space Agency is still open for business, for instance. Nasa has also provided a reassuringly dense list of other authorities watching for dangerous rocks.
To clarify: Many observatories, astronomers are watching the skies. Updated list of Near-Earth objects at http://t.co/mGzjwg6zQm-- Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
More than 800,000 federal workers have been forced to stay at home during the crisis, which is the first of its kind for 17 years.Suggest a correction