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NASA Space Science

Simulation of Close Asteroid Fly-By 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the close-enough-to-feel-the-vacuum-breeze dept.
c0mpliant writes "NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have released a simulation of the path of an asteroid, named Apophis, that will come very close to Earth in 2029 — the closest predicted approach since humans have monitored for such heavenly bodies. The asteroid caused a bit of a scare when astronomers first announced that it would enter Earth's neighborhood some time in the future. However, since that announcement in 2004, more recent calculations have put the odds of collision at 1 in 250,000."
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Simulation of Close Asteroid Fly-By

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    That means we won the global armageddon lottery?

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      Local lotto here is 1 in 14,000,000.

      Let's see, become a millionaire before planet gets whacked? Good thing I'm not a betting man.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:54AM (#30512704)

    * O - Earth
    |
    | ---- Asteroid
    |

    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:48AM (#30513446)

      Scientists report that the Apophis asteroid is approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields. Further research and government grants are necessary to determine whether the Apophisites are playing American Football or that odd metric football where you use your feet.

      • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:51AM (#30513482)

        I'm curious to know how many Volkswagen Beetles we'd need to collide with a two-and-a-half football fields asteroid to change its trajectory.

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          That depends on how many times the speed of sound the Volkswagen beetles are going...

          Is 'speed of sound' an obscure enough unit (when referring to something in a vacuum) or is furlongs/fortnight required? Maybe conversion to 'force(s) of a mack truck' to imply speed and mass? I am certain we can clear this up somehow...

          • by Chapter80 (926879) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:23PM (#30513938)

            It's all documented in the Library of Congress. In fact, a lot of information is contained in the Library of Congress. Ten Terabytes: [techtarget.com] and if each bit was a "0" or "1" in 12-point font, laid end-to-end, it would stretch to the Apophis asteroid and back nine times (at its closest point to Earth).

            Seriously, what's this "1 in 250,000" chance of hitting the Earth? It's only going to pass once, and it'll either hit or miss. So it's one in 2.

            That's why it's important for lottery money to go toward education. These scientists can't calculate probabilities!

            • by jeffmeden (135043)

              It's all documented in the Library of Congress. In fact, a lot of information is contained in the Library of Congress. Ten Terabytes: [techtarget.com] and if each bit was a "0" or "1" in 12-point font, laid end-to-end, it would stretch to the Apophis asteroid and back nine times (at its closest point to Earth).

              Seriously, what's this "1 in 250,000" chance of hitting the Earth? It's only going to pass once, and it'll either hit or miss. So it's one in 2.

              That's why it's important for lottery money to go toward education. These scientists can't calculate probabilities!

              Ironic then, that as I win the lottery every other time I play (the odds being 1:2) the education fund will no doubt go into the red delivering my payouts... Take that, book learnin'!

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Martin Blank (154261)

              There is still some uncertainty in the calculations due to imperfect observations, the effects of gravity, and the solar wind, for example. The trajectory shown in the video is very close to the most likely one, but there are still some factors that could change from the expected parameters and so change the actual path.

        • by euxneks (516538)

          I'm curious to know how many Volkswagen Beetles we'd need to collide with a two-and-a-half football fields asteroid to change its trajectory.

          Not enough!

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        You mean American Handegg?

    • (X) - NASA funding
        ^
        | ---- JPL
        |

  • These rocks are high in minerals which are very useful. Who'se with me, capturing this thing, and turning it into a gigantic orbiting factory?

    • by yincrash (854885) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:58AM (#30512734)
      looking at the simulation, the amount of energy required to bring this into any orbit at all seems really really really high
    • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:07AM (#30512866)

      Hmmm . . . a giant harpoon, tethered by a long nanotube to the Earth. We could nail that asteroid, like Captain Ahab did to Moby Dick. We could travel back and forth on a space elevator. The more alcohol I drink, the better this idea sounds!

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Do you have any idea how much energy would be required to capture it?

      You'd be better off putting some sort of automatic mining robot on it and having it launch just the extracted material on the next pass by earth (though I have no idea how close it comes on future orbits). Well aside from us not having the tech for that yet.

      Actually I'm pretty sure that's a standard sci-fi technique. Send the big mining robot to the asteroid. It then starts processing the asteroid and ejects the waste material in order to

      • by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:23AM (#30513120)

        Actually I'm pretty sure that's a standard sci-fi technique. Send the big mining robot to the asteroid. It then starts processing the asteroid and ejects the waste material in order to produce thrust to head towards Earth (aiming for an orbit rather than a collision :).

        Actually, the standard Sci-Fi technique is:
        - Send big mining robot.
        - Big mining robot passes through exotic magnetic field and develops conscience.
        - Big mining robot invades Earth; possibly to mine it.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          I read a slightly different sub-genre of sci-fi than you :)

          • by Gilmoure (18428)

            - Big mining robot passes through exotic field.

            - Big mining robot reengineers cute 22 year old female human body

            - Big mining robot takes up new career as stripper?

        • Actually, the standard Sci-Fi technique is: - Send big mining robot. - Big mining robot passes through exotic magnetic field and develops conscience. - Big mining robot invades Earth; possibly to mine it.

          Don't you think that a big mining robot with a conscience would have more respect for personal property?

        • Actually, the standard Sci-Fi technique is:
          - Send big mining robot.
          - Big mining robot passes through exotic magnetic field and develops conscience.
          - Big mining robot invades Earth; possibly to mine it.

          Or the big mining robot asks to learn of that emotion we humans call love. Possibly becomes turned on watching monster truck rallies, tries to woo Grave Digger.

      • by rossdee (243626)

        Given that they thought it might hit on the next pass (if it came close enough for the earths gravity to affect it this time) thrn i think that it should be easy for a robot to thrw up some rocks at the right time on the next pass and have them land on earth. (Bonus points if you can land them on somebody you don't like (Korea, Iran...)

      • I don't know anything about Orbital Mechanics, but just for the sake of Robert Kennedy's ghost, I ask, "Why Not?" "IF" the entire planet said, "Yes, capture this object, regardless of cost, do it". Granted, by comparison of future technologies, it would look like a 1950's art deco solution, but what would it take to put this thing in orbit for the sole purpose of mining it to build orbiting manufacturing, and agricultural facilities? And just so perspective is brought into the mix. It really doesn't make
    • I think we should just lasso the thing so it whips down into the middle east, solving war for 300 years. That should finally shut up all those "Peace is the only answer" hippies.
    • Who'se with me, capturing this thing, and turning it into a gigantic orbiting factory?

      I'm with you. Now all we need is to get someone on board who has access to a whole lot of bungee cords.

  • by cwiegmann24 (1476667) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:57AM (#30512728)
    ...that the odds were 4 in a million...
  • relative risk (Score:3, Informative)

    by yincrash (854885) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:00AM (#30512766)
    apparently there is a better chance of this happening than getting struck by lightning. http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/probability.html [lightningsafety.com] what happens when a slider tries to visit that world?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      But it is much more probable for the meteorite to kill us all than a succession of lightnings killing each and every human being.

      And not just because after the first few thousand lightning hits we'd start thinking about hiding in caves.

      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        But it is much more probable for the meteorite to kill us all than a succession of lightnings killing each and every human being.

        And not just because after the first few thousand lightning hits we'd start thinking about hiding in caves.

        Not really, an assumed impact would 'only' kill millions. There would be no long-term climatic disaster to kill everyone.

        Unless, of course, we try making a massive pile of the entire planet's nuclear weapons to cushion the impact...

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          If it has a 1 in 250,000 chance of killing 'millions' (say, 3 million), the average price of not intercepting/deflecting it is 12 deaths. It's probably not worth hundreds of millions of dollars to try to prevent that.

          If this was a planet killer, though, I think the 1 in 250,000 isn't good enough odds; we'd have to weigh it against the entire future of everything on earth, including the potential galaxy-spanning empire that humans may someday evolve into.
    • The same thing that happens to everything else.

  • With this asteroid coming so close to earth, obviously the flight path of it is going to change afterward. Any chance of this being captured in orbit? Or will this be flung somewhere else in the solar system? Or worse, coming back if it doesn't have enough energy to carry on?
    • They do think of that sort of thing! IIRC, this pass is the last time we need worry about it for the forseeable future, but I forget what specifically the simulations actually suggest.
      • Actually, I believe they're expecting to enormously improve their predictions on its future paths after its 2013 flyby. More info on wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99942_Apophis [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        Actually this pass (the 2029 close approach) is not a concern at all. The error brackets are brought in well enough that we know it will not impact the Earth, but will pass well within the GEO belt. What we don't know, and when the actual 1/250000 impact risk is, is the next pass, in 2036. If the asteroid passes through what is known as a 'gravitational keyhole' in 2029, the effect of Earth's gravity will actually swing the asteroid back around on an impact path in 2036.

        Right now we can predict where Apo

  • Good thing it ony 250,000 to 1. If it were 1,000,000 to 1, then we'd be doomed

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jimbolauski (882977)
      I'll give you either odds that the meteorite hits, I'll put your winnings in the mail the day after it hits.
  • Where's the OTHER simulation? You know... the one where this asteroid comes back and actually strikes Earth.
  • Earth will have been destroyed 17 years before this happens when Planet Nibiru crosses our orbit in 2012.
  • we've had worse (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think the asteroid that just missed us (was that last month?) came closer than this will.
    the only difference is we didn't see it coming.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      If I remember correctly that one was very small, so that if it landed at all it would probably mess up someones house, but was far more likely to airburst and be completely unnoticed on the ground.

      99942 Apophis, while not a 'planet-killer', is still big enough that it would cause massive regional destruction, probably 10 times more than the Tunguska event, which we were very fortunate to have happen in Siberia and not over a populated region. Also the danger doesn't come from this 2029 close approach, but

  • by starglider29a (719559) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:34AM (#30513270)
    One can download Celestia and make your own simlation! It's not rocket science. It's not, it's astrophysics, and some astronomy math to get the orbit to work. But there is enough data on the net to recreate this... and then tweak it for the earth shattering kaboom!

    I wish that someone would make a game of this... where you need to send up a vehicle, bump and asteroid and watch the change. Give us all a chance to crowd source the various "solutions". Learn just how friggin tricky this would be, how long it would take, how little effect we can have. All of this talk about "capturing this asteroid" on this thread alone is sad. The amount of energy in an asteroid's kinetics is astounding. This topic needs a dose of realism.

    A POX on Bruce Wyllis!
  • by nysus (162232) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:37AM (#30513300)

    In that animation, the asteroid was apparently deflected by the earth's force field. Either that or I just don't understand what's going on. Can someone kindly explain what the video is showing?

    • by starglider29a (719559) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:45AM (#30513406)
      Ride a motorcycle at 60 MPH and careen in front of a car doing 50 MPH from right to left, with a free beer sitting just above the right headlight. Keep your eye on the front of the car as you approach and after you pass. Grab the free beer as you slide by, just miss getting hit by the car.

      That is the same as the relative positions of this simulation.
      • by nysus (162232)

        Ah, I see what the video is showing now. "Keep your eye on the front of the car as you approach *and after you pass*" is what gave me a clue.

        I think this can be classified as a video optical illusion. I watched it like 3 times and the asteroid looked like it bounced backwards and away to the left.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by starglider29a (719559)
          I did a simulation of the Cassini flyby. It came so close to the earth that you saw NOTHING for a while. That 'nothing' was the dark side of the earth. That was like grabbing the beer off the back bumper.
      • Yeah, but the beer will be warm.
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      In 2029 the asteroid 99942 Apophis will pass well within the GEO satellite belt (36,000 km), but will not impact the Earth. The video simulates this trajectory and as the Earth approaches for a few moments it appears that an impact is likely. However, this is an illusion where the Earth merely dominates the field of view and the in-plane relative velocity is much larger than the horizontal relative velocity.

      To be clear, the orbit of the asteroid as it enters the Earth's sphere of influence is a very hig

  • I saw the RSS headline as "Stimulation of Close Asteroid Fly-By" and I just had to see what that was all about...
  • This is expected to come within our moon's orbit, right? So what are the odds of it impacting the moon? And if it were to do so, what would the impact do to the moon's orbit?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by starglider29a (719559)
      Moonfall by Jack McDevitt. Also some SyFy presentation of EarthStorm.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      It is certain not to hit the moon on this pass, just as its guaranteed not to hit the Earth. Uncertainty of the asteroid's position is within 10s of kilometers, more than enough to make sure theres no risk of that.

      If it were to impact the moon, we can determine the relative Delta-V it would apply. The velocity of the asteroid relative to the Earth moon system upon entry is approximately 5.9 km/s, according the JPL NEO page, and has a mass of ~2.7e10 kg. The Moon is moving at ~1 km/s and has a mass of 7.3

  • Impact Simulations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smitty777 (1612557) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:43AM (#30513378) Journal

    I'm surprised the original post didn't link to this article from Sandia National Labs [sandia.gov]. There is a pretty interesting analysis of what would actually happen if an asteroid did hit (complete with nifty graphics).
     
    From the Sandia article:So what would happen during such an impact, really? According to the simulation, the impact would vaporize the asteroid, deform the ocean floor, and eject hundreds of cubic miles of superheated water vapor, melted rock, and other debris into the upper atmosphere and back into space. Much of the debris would then rain down over the world for the next several hours and also form a high global cloud, says David Crawford of Sandia's Computational Physics and Mechanics Department. The shock wave from the impact would level much of the New England region. The heat would incinerate cities and forests there instantaneously. The global cloud would then lower temperatures worldwide, and a global snowstorm likely would ensue and last several days to several weeks, initiating a "nuclear winter" that would create more hardships for earth's inhabitants.

    • That doesn't sound as bad as I thought it could be. Up here in Canada our Winters last at least 6 months anyways. And I'm far enough in land that any ocean impacts likely won't flood me, or incinerate me.

      I was afraid of some Earth Shattering Kaboom, that could Shatter the Earth. With a loud bang.

      • Time to move up to Canada. Seriously, I would think it would depend on the size of the meteor. In the video I posted on a thread above, the inhabitants of the Earth don't fare so well.

    • by GigG (887839)
      "hardships for earth's inhabitants"

      Now that is an understatement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually your link appears to be about the simulation of a 1.4 km diameter asteroid. Apophis is 0.27 km in diameter. Assuming roughly equivalent densities that would mean a ratio of 2.744 to 0.019683, or 139 to 1, for their respective masses. It seems that more than two degrees of magnitude would demand a new simulation.
  • Why named "Apophis?" I thought SG-1 killed him off real good back in season four. What we've got to consider is whether the asteroid is in fact heavy with naquadah (which prohibits nuclear solutions). At least Sam Carter figured out that whole enlargement of the subspace bubble round the transport vessel -- barely got that asteroid to the other side of earth... We've got all the solutions we need, I figure.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Actually, the discoverers claim that during the initial days when it was a 1/300 impact risk, a god of destruction seemed like a good name. However, it also turns out that they were SG-1 fans...

  • ...but the odds of a strike are still a lot better than the odds of winning a major lottery.

  • We already have Armageddon and Deep Impact.
  • Given that we can measure the location of nearby space objects with fairly good accuracy and the laws of physics at that magnitude are not fuzzy as in smaller scales, what are the unknowns that make such an impact a 1 in X possibility and not a certain Hit/Miss?
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      "measure the location of nearby space objects with fairly good accuracy"

      That's one of the big sources of error. Any error in it's position now, however small, gets amplified the further you run the clock forward. There are also errors introduced because the prediction has to be done numerically, there being no known analytical solution to the laws of motion for more than two bodies.

  • by mqduck (232646)

    You know, 1 in 250,000 is of course a very, very, very (very, very) low chance, but... it's still a not insignificant possibility. That's slightly (very, very, very, very, very slightly) scary.

  • Show me the arcade mode
  • ... just to give the complete picture of this.

  • How about we link directly to the simulation and dodge all the blog spam.

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news146.html [nasa.gov]

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