Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Asteroid Highlighted as Impact Threat 297

Posted by Zonk
from the please-bring-your-seatbacks-and-traytables dept.
Maggie McKee writes "The asteroid Apophis has been traversing the void of space for untold years; in just a few decades time it will make a very close pass to Earth, and could make an unwelcome stop on our planet's surface. Even still, it's nothing to get too worked up about. The 20-million-tonne object has a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting the Pacific Ocean in early April of 2036. If it did hit, it could trigger a tsunami that would do an untold amount of damage to the California coastline and many other places on Earth. Despite the low level of the threat, it's still a real enough danger to prompt the United Nations to develop a protocol about the scenario. We'll get a closeup look at the object in 2029, and at that point we should have a better idea of what 2036 will bring us."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Asteroid Highlighted as Impact Threat

Comments Filter:
  • by Corporate Troll (537873) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @07:52PM (#18055544) Homepage Journal

    We have some drilling to do!

    • No Worries (Score:5, Funny)

      by blantonl (784786) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @07:54PM (#18055558) Homepage
      untold amount of damage to the California coastline

      Cancel that request... nothing to be worried about... nothing to see here. Move along folks..
    • by sconeu (64226) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @07:56PM (#18055576) Homepage Journal
      No, it's Apophis, so we call Jack O'Neill. Those darned Goa'uld!
    • by jfclavette (961511) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:00PM (#18055614)
      Talk about missing the point. In a few decades Bruce Willis might be DEAD ! Where does that leave us ?
    • by D-Cypell (446534) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:01PM (#18055628)
      I, for one, vote that we let the asteroid come, and destroy the planet in an effort prevent the potential catastrophe of a follow-up to that movie.

      Anyway, with any luck, some smart intern has already pointed out that titling a movie 'armageddon' should, generally, rule out a sequel.
    • Call SG-1 (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not only did they kill Apophis [wikipedia.org], they also stopped an asteroid [wikipedia.org] sent by Anubis.
      • Ah, so this one is just a decoy for the other one for when it falls on our flanks. Tricky bastards, those aliens.
  • great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 17, 2007 @07:52PM (#18055546)
    If we determined in 2029 that it was going to hit in 2036, our governments probably wouldn't be able to get their shit together quickly enough to do anything.
  • by Rhesusmonkey (1028378) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @07:56PM (#18055582) Homepage
    ...called Arizona Bay
  • In science-fiction writer Michael Flynn's future history starting with the novel Firestar [amazon.com] , it's actually the fear of an asteroid that gets a corporate executive starting commercial space travel, jumping ahead of inefficient and bureacratic NASA. Well, it's been a few years now since the date Flynn suggested for the start of real orbital travel, not just the suborbital tourism we're seeing developed now. But nonetheless, I'd like to think that in the last couple of years we're showing enough progress that
    • by shawb (16347)
      1) Set up shop and charge maybe... one billion dollars for a spot on a martian/lunar/orbital station. Charge even more for the luxury suites where you don't need to perform grueling physical labor.
      2) Convince the uber-wealthy that there is a chance (maybe 1% is enough?) that all life on earth will be wiped out, the only way to ensure survival is to move onto the off-world colony. 3) Profit! 4) ?????
  • by dfn5 (524972) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:05PM (#18055662) Journal
    we wouldn't have to worry about the Y2.038K bug.

  • Thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by mustafap (452510) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:08PM (#18055688)
    >We'll get a closeup look at the object in 2029, and at that point we should have a better idea of what 2036 will bring us."

    I'll stick a reminder in outlook.
  • by TodMinuit (1026042) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (tiunimdot)> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:13PM (#18055720)
    If it did hit, it could trigger a tsunami that would do an untold amount of damage to the California coastline and many other places on Earth.

    DOOMSDAY PARTY IN CHICAGO! WHOOO! *plays Conga by Miami Sound Machine*
  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:20PM (#18055782)
    1. set up an alert system:
      >>(green, no asteroid)
      >>(yellow, the asteroid MIGHT be near the earth)
      >>(orange, be careful when answering your door, IT MIGHT BE THE ASTEROID!)
      >>(red, we're already dead from the impact)

    2. earmark government funds to buy swimsuits and surfboards for all californians

    3. have congressional prayer sessions thanking the intelligent designer for wiping out the seat of all vice

    4. only give recovery funds to predominently white areas.

    5. Invade iraq in retaliation.

  • by SamSim (630795) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:30PM (#18055862) Homepage Journal
    And a gigantic iron to stand on.
  • The Pacific (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WombatDeath (681651)
    Just out of interest: if we don't know whether or not it's going to hit, how do we know that if it does it will land in the Pacific?
    • Re:The Pacific (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chmcginn (201645) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:42PM (#18055954) Journal
      Figuring out the exact speed of an asteroid, relative to us, is apparently a tad easier than figuring out its exact course. According to the data we have, the possible path of the asteriod is a cone.... the earth is inside that cone currently. Earth takes up about 1/45,000th of that cone, specifically. We know when it will get here, if it does get here, with a good degree of accuracy. And we know what direction it would be coming from. So that rules out it landing in, say, Cuba - it would be coming from the wrong direction to hit there at the time of impact.
      • To be honest I still don't get it. I get that we're in the cone of possible projected paths for this thing. But surely that's one whole side of the Earth that's in it. If we can calculate the precise time in which it would hit us then I can obviously see that maybe the Californian coastline might be smack in the centre of the Earth relative to the asteroid, but surely that still means there's only a tiny fraction of the 1/45000 chance that it will actually hit dead centre. No?
        • Nevermind. Just paid a bit more attention to TFA and realised they're talking about it hitting "the pacific ocean", not specifically the Californian coastline, in which case they probably can safely make that assumption if the timing were just right.
        • by scdeimos (632778)
          The target zone is apparently a path from Siberia leading ESE through North America around to the west coast of Africa. I don't understand it myself, since the uncertainty should be a conic region giving us a more-or-less circular target zone on the surface of the Earth (not linear).

          So far as the report on New Scientist goes, I guess they just decided to say it would hit the Pacific off the coast of California. The artists' impression picture is also not to scale - an asteroid that big relative to Earth wou
          • Re:The Pacific (Score:5, Informative)

            by purfledspruce (821548) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:04PM (#18056500)
            Actually, the uncertainty mostly isn't due to error in position; it's due to the fact that, when we observe a NEO, it's a point of light in the sky. We really don't know how far away it is. If it's near to the Earth and Sun, it moves more quickly; if it's farther away, it moves more slowly. If you remember that things move in circles or ellipses around the Sun, then you might get the idea that the uncertainty "ellipse" (due to a small error in position left-right, but a very large error in depth) due to the different orbital velocities, it "stretches out" over time, wrapping the ellipse's major axis around the Sun until it's basically a straight line.

            There's a fantastic animation of this process at Spaceguard's [esa.int] site, just scroll down to the second animation.

    • We don't, but since most of the earth is covered by the Pacific ocean, chances are better than 70% that it will hit there. If we are really lucky, it will hit Washington DC, but the odds are against us...
  • by mpoloks (1062844) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:35PM (#18055904)

    The 20-million-tonne object has a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting the Pacific Ocean...
    which if you look at the numbers it's the area code of a small town where i met this incredible girl! how improbable...
  • by evanbd (210358) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:51PM (#18056032)

    This asteroid has a Palermo Technical Scale [nasa.gov] risk assessment of -2.52.

    The PTS relates the impact risk to the background risk in a logarithmic way -- that is, the probability of Apophis hitting us is 0.003 times the probability that we will be struck by some other asteroid of equal or larger size first. Or, put another way, yes we should be worried about asteroid impacts, and yes we should keep watching Apophis, but it's not (by our understanding) a big cause to go and panic.

    That said, Apophis is the second highest ranked asteroid we know about by the PTS, behind 2007 CA19 at -0.91 (potential impact in 2012). And if it gets the people with the budgets to start considering the problem, that's a good thing. Right now, though, it would seem that our best use of money is to spend more effort looking for asteroids -- so far, the number we find appears to be fairly well correlated to how hard we look, suggesting that we have found a very, very small fraction of the NEOs out there.

    • ...suggesting that we have found a very, very small fraction of the NEOs out there.
      ...suggesting that we have found a very, very small fraction of the Agent Smiths out there.

      There. Fixed that for ya.
  • 'nuff said (Score:3, Funny)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:56PM (#18056090) Homepage Journal
    Even still, it's nothing to get too worked up about... If it did hit, it could trigger a tsunami that would do an untold amount of damage to the California ... Despite the low level of the threat...
  • 2007 CA19 (Score:5, Informative)

    by crontabminusell (995652) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:06PM (#18056172)
    The object 2007 CA19 [nasa.gov] has a better chance (as of right now) of hitting the Earth than 99942 Apophis (2004 MN4) [nasa.gov] does. The former is also about four times larger than the latter and would have more than double the velocity at impact if it were to hit.
    • The impact probability for 2007_CA19 is based on a bit over 5 days of observations. Further observations are more likely to decrease impact probability than to increase it. It is definitely worth keeping an eye on, but I wouldn't take impact probabilities too seriously until a few more weeks of observations have taken place.
    • Re:2007 CA19 (Score:5, Informative)

      by GunFodder (208805) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:28PM (#18056594)
      No it doesn't. Here are the hit probabilities from your links:

      CA-19: 1 in 714,000 chance
      Apophis: 1 in 45,000 chance

      I'm assuming the risk factor for CA-19 is higher because it is larger and its projected impact date is closer, which gives us greater confidence in its projected path.
  • Real blame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blahpony (1065454)
    The MPAA and RIAA will just blame the tsunami on piracy.
  • Ob. HHGTTG (Score:4, Funny)

    by ozbird (127571) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:24PM (#18056260)
    "So this is it. We're going to die."
  • Not saying its time to freak out, but that really isnt that bad of odds considering we are talking being hit by a object coming from the vast expanse of space.

    Thats even better odds then winning the lotto.
  • by TheSuperlative (897959) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:04PM (#18056496)
    Don't worry, if it comes, by then our protective shield of space debris will destroy it before it can enter the atmosphere.
    • by linguizic (806996) *
      Better yet, NASA should use it's connections in the mafia to obtain a rocket and blast all of our trash at it.
  • Priorities (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BobSutan (467781) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:04PM (#18056498)
    http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N17363374 .htm [alertnet.org]

    To put this into perspective you have roughly a 1 in 80,000 chance of dying from an act of terrorism, almost twice the odds that this thing will strike the Earth. Now think about that. The odds of this think hitting the PLANET is greater than any 1 person being killed by a terrorist. Now look back at how much time and money has been spent on combating those that use terrorism to accomplish their goals.

    Think about it where our priorities should be.

    For reference, Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is about a mile wide and 500 feet deep, was created by a ~66' wide meteor. Apophis is ~450' wide. If another meteor the size of the one from Arizona were to hit a city, which is twice as likely to happen than a terrorist strike, it'd be akin to a nuclear detonation. If something the size of Apophis should strike the earth, well, say goodbye to whatever county (or small state) it lands in.

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mystery_mond ay_040412.html [space.com]
    • by siwelwerd (869956)
      66' wide when it hit the ground, or 66' wide before it entered the atmosphere?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Think about it where our priorities should be.

      One thing we should worry about is a prediction of an impact in a large population centre. For example a 1 in 100 probability of an impact in India in 10 years. The result of such a prediction would be much worse than the actual impact.

    • If another meteor the size of the one from Arizona were to hit a city, which is twice as likely to happen than a terrorist strike, it'd be akin to a nuclear detonation. If something the size of Apophis should strike the earth, well, say goodbye to whatever county (or small state) it lands in.



      If this puppy is aimed at the USA then I sure hope Canada sets up a system that requires passports and all sorts of red tape for anyone from the USA who wishes to visit our country!

      Of course if any Americans think the
  • Unix time runs out in 2038, we gotta see what that's like!
  • If we can find a way of tilting the earth by that time so the asteroid hits the nation on earth that will be causing problems at that time ...
  • 20 million tons? Probably flying into the Earth at near light speeds? And you fools think it's just going to do some coastal damage to California? From where I come from this sounds like a formula for breaking the Earth into millions of little shards. The only living things that would survive would be small things like cockroaches that would be able to cling onto their own bit of rock and survive the recoagulation of the planet. Mankind would likely be wiped from the face of the Earth (not too much of
  • The 20-million-tonne object has a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting the Pacific Ocean in early April of 2036.

    Excellent! I guess we can keep using a 32-bit time_t [wikipedia.org] after all!

  • The article mentions that potential 'threat asteroids' are being tracked, and hopefully all potential threats will soon be identified for closer observation.

    I remember reading years ago on slashdot about a near-miss that occured during daylight hours, when a global-catastrophe sized asteroid approached earth from the sun and passed between the moon and earth. Does anybody remember this? And the asteroid wasn't even detected until it had already passed.

    What about asteroids that can be slingshot from behind
  • This asteroid has been known about since 2004. The odds of it striking earth have been changed several times, the last time in October 2006 when the odds were actually decreased. What's the story here again?

No hardware designer should be allowed to produce any piece of hardware until three software guys have signed off for it. -- Andy Tanenbaum

Working...