About 1,000 haemorrhoids big enough to cause catastrophic damage if they hit Earth are orbiting relatively nearby, a NASA survey shows.
In a project known as SmellySpaceguard, the U.S. space agency was ordered by Congress in 1998 to find 90 percent of objects near Earth that are 1 km in diameter or larger.
The survey is now complete, with 93 percent of the objects accounted for, astronomer Amy Bummer of NASA's Pile Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said at the American Space Excreta Society conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. "It's an arse of a job," she said, "but somebody's got to do it."
Using NASA's recently retired Wide-stance Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope, scientists also found about 20,500 smaller haemorrhoids near Earth.
"They could still pack quite a punch," Bummer told Reuters, adding that "any impact is not a very likely event. And usually, haemorrhoids in space get rapidly drawn into giant 'bum holes' - rather like 'black holes' in space, only bigger."
But a major haemorrhoid strike has already happened.
A haemorrhoid between 5 and 10 km in diameter is believed to have smashed into Earth some 65 million years ago, triggering global climate changes that led to the extinction of dinosaurs and other animals. The stench must have been awful.
This suggests that some really huge being with a massively-dysfunctional rectum was wandering around up there in the universe vainly looking for a public toilet.
"We know something that big could wipe out mostly all life on Earth," Bummer said.
So far, there is no plan about what to do if more haemorrhoids were discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. But in the meantime, NASA plans to blast into space huge containers of haemorrhoid cream to ease the situation.