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Space Science

Asteroid Apophis Just Got Bigger 182

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-little-chin-music dept.
astroengine writes "As the potentially hazardous asteroid makes closest approach to Earth today, astronomers using the European Herschel Space Observatory have announced something a little unsettling: asteroid 99942 Apophis is actually bigger than we thought. Herschel astronomers have deduced that Apophis is 1,066 feet (325 meters) wide. That's 20 percent larger than the previous estimate of 885 feet (270 meters). 'The 20 percent increase in diameter, from 270 to 325 m, translates into a 75 percent increase in our estimates of the asteroid's volume or mass,' said Thomas Müller of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, and lead scientist of the study. In addition, the space telescope has re-analyzed the albedo of the space rock, providing a valuable heat map of the object's surface — data that will improve orbital trajectory models."
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Asteroid Apophis Just Got Bigger

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  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:42PM (#42541153)

    ...does this mean we're more likely to die or less likely to die?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Boobs look bigger close up too.
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:52PM (#42541245)

      No, the chances we are all going to die are still 100%. The only question is when.

      • Re:So... (Score:4, Funny)

        by TempestRose (1187397) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:56PM (#42541771)
        Speak for yourself. I plan to live forever.
        • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:43PM (#42542149)

          Only about 95% of all humans who have ever existed have died. There's still a 5% fighting chance immortality exists. Not only that, but my odds are better than most humans, past and present.

      • According to many popular sources, 2 weeks and 6 days ago.
    • by paiute (550198)
      it's always about you, isn't it?
    • by kdemetter (965669)

      Well, if you were leading a government, and you know that an asteroid is going to hit the earth, are you going tell everyone that, knowing that it would cause mass hysteria, riots,etc..., long before the asteroid would hit.

      Probably not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:42PM (#42541155)

    Someone had to say it.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:44PM (#42541179)
    Astronomers. My asteroid is bigger than your asteriod. Is not! Is too! Is not! Is too!.....I guess we'll both need grants for a few years to study the question.
  • by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:44PM (#42541181)
    Does this mean we need to prepare for a Goa'uld invasion?
    • by erroneus (253617)

      There it is... the SG1 reference :)

      Lovin' it. As loved as that series was, it really played itself out as completely as possible didn't it? Kinda went way beyond that. Still, I wish they kept Stargate Universe going. That was a series that had my interest.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        Stargate Universe was a more sci-fi LOST, barely set in the Stargate universe.
        • Same universe, different galaxy

        • especially in the beginning.
          1st season sucked until it became OK by the end
          then by the middle of the 2nd season it got really good.

          Then the ghost/wrestling channel didn't renew it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        you know the amateur astronomers that discovered 'Aphophis' were big stargate fans, hence the name. SG1 reference built-in from the start.

      • by tragedy (27079) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:53PM (#42542235)

        The big problem with Stargate: Universe was the plot induced stupidity in the characters. They were clearly trying to emulate the grim, gritty BSG which had plenty of its own plot-induced stupidity. Trouble is, it gets hard to ignore it when the plot-induced stupidity railroads the characters to irredeemable actions. There were plenty of these. Certainly enough that several main characters should have been relieved of all authority and locked up for the whole trip. The one that got to me the most was when there was a character trapped by the legs after a shuttle crash and, at his request, the commander suffocates him to death. I think euthanasia may be appropriate in certain situations, but not when you can put the minds of a couple of expert trauma surgeons into some of the crew and just cut the patients legs off, or waste some explosives to try and remove the debris, or send the ships robot down to the surface to move the debris, or any of a dozen ideas better than just having a few soldiers try to muscle the debris off. When a patient is in extreme chronic pain that can't be stopped and will last for the rest of their life and begs to die, it's time to consider euthensia. When a patient is in transitory pain, no matter how extreme, but has excellent prospects for survival without pain, you simply shouldn't consider their requests since they're not in their right minds. That kind of nonsense, leaving you with no choice but to either pretend big chunks of the show didn't happen or hate some of the main characters, tends to wreck a show.

        Sort of reminds of the first and only episode of Star Trek: Enterprise I watched. It was titled "Dear Doctor". In it, the captain and the ships doctor have a cure for an illness that's killing off the population of a planet who they've agreed to help. They decide, based on some crazy nazi-style eugenics destiny argument (with allusions to the not yet established Prime Directive), that the population is destined to die off in favor of another intelligent species that lives on the planet with them. So they withhold the cure as the "ethical" thing to do, but still present them with a partial treatment, then go on their merry way.

        Generally speaking, I don't have a problem with fiction with characters that morally flawed. Humans are often morally flawed. The problem is when the fictional treatment also puts these criminally incompetent characters on a pedestal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by osu-neko (2604)

          ...I think euthanasia may be appropriate in certain situations, but not when you can put the minds of a couple of expert trauma surgeons into some of the crew and just cut the patients legs off, or waste some explosives to try and remove the debris, or send the ships robot down to the surface to move the debris, or any of a dozen ideas better than just having a few soldiers try to muscle the debris off.

          None of these options were possible at the time.

          When a patient is in extreme chronic pain that can't be stopped and will last for the rest of their life and begs to die, it's time to consider euthensia.

          That would be exactly the situation here. The only options were to either euthanize him, or leave him there in pain to die alone. He asked for the former, and got it.

          • by tragedy (27079)

            ...I think euthanasia may be appropriate in certain situations, but not when you can put the minds of a couple of expert trauma surgeons into some of the crew and just cut the patients legs off, or waste some explosives to try and remove the debris, or send the ships robot down to the surface to move the debris, or any of a dozen ideas better than just having a few soldiers try to muscle the debris off.

            None of these options were possible at the time.

            All of those options were available at the time. He was killed by Young after they had established a gate connection to the planet, so all the resources of the ship were available including the minds of trauma surgeons on Earth dropped into any body they chose (the stones were fully operational in that episode as one of the characters mentions that she's just made a report to the IOA during these events). Turns out I did forget that they were able to lift the debris, they just stopped because the pressure

      • by Teancum (67324)

        Of course the asteroid was named by a bunch of SG1 fans, so the reference is quite fitting. That he was the Egyptian death god didn't hurt when it came time to convince the IAU that the name was appropriate. What surprises me is that this name wasn't previously taken by a Kuiper Belt object.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Its a ball of replicators that resemble a rock. Call your congressional representitives tell them we're going to need more guns.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:20PM (#42541479)

      Does this mean we need to prepare for a Goa'uld invasion?

      No. Antarctica is melting at an unprecidented rate. It's only a matter of time before they discover the research station the Ancients left behind.

    • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:24PM (#42541513)
      Shouldn't be too hard. So long as we can fund about three people, only two of whom actually need to be soldiers. If they can convince one of Apophis' guys to join our side, that should be enough to defeat the lot.
    • Also, it will land on a pyramid.
    • by a_hanso (1891616) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:08PM (#42541853) Journal
      No. It means it's made of Naquadah: http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Naquadah_asteroid [wikia.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wormhole Extreme!!!!!!

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Peter Williams just gained weight.

      Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • SG-1 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by madsci1016 (1111233) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:45PM (#42541189) Homepage
    SG-1 Will take care of it no doubt.
  • 2029 approach (Score:5, Informative)

    by olsmeister (1488789) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:45PM (#42541193)
    They're also saying that Apophis will pass within 36,000 km of Earth in 2029. [phys.org] Now that's not missing us by much.
    • Re:2029 approach (Score:5, Informative)

      by SternisheFan (2529412) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:03PM (#42541347)

      They're also saying that Apophis will pass within 36,000 km of Earth in 2029. [phys.org] Now that's not missing us by much.

      And that'll be about the right time for our space-tech to have caught up enough for us to be able to 'lasso' it. If we miss it then, by it's expected return in 2036 we'd better be able to control it. It seems to keep getting a little closer with each return orbit.

      From the above link:

      " The asteroid will return to Earth's neighbourhood again in 2036, but quite how close it will come then is uncertain, as the 2029 approach is predicted to alter its orbit substantially. Obtaining improved physical parameters for Apophis and its orbit is thus of great importance in being able to make better predictions of its future trajectory." Read more at:

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        Quite correct. This is likely the most valuable asteroid in Near Earth Orbit. It's likely to be swarmed by asteroid miner '29'ers in 2029, and in 2036 for nothing of consequence to be left of it.
      • by delt0r (999393)

        It seems to keep getting a little closer with each return orbit.

        That is not how orbital mechanics works. In fact close approaches change the orbit rather drastically.

        • It seems to keep getting a little closer with each return orbit.

          That is not how orbital mechanics works. In fact close approaches change the orbit rather drastically.

          Yes, it was my 'opinion' when I stated that "it seems to be getting closer" (where's the "Edit Comment" button?). We won't know what the orbit path will be until after it passes us in 2029.

      • And that'll be about the right time for our space-tech to have caught up enough for us to be able to 'lasso' it.

        Oh, please; by that time Congress will still be debating about raising the debt ceiling. Maybe the Chinese, but only if they're paid for their effort (read: Taiwan).

    • by DavidD_CA (750156)

      It's okay. We'll totally have flying cars by then.

    • Re:2029 approach (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sowelu (713889) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:06PM (#42541361)

      For those who are hoping to see it, that distance puts it at two arcseconds wide (if my calculations are decent). This is roughly the same width in the sky as Neptune, or 900 times smaller diameter than our moon on an average day.

    • by InterestingX (930362) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:06PM (#42541367)
      "Carter, I can see my house from here."
    • by hardie (716254)

      How reassuring that they have such accurate estimates of things like orbit and mass.

      • Re:2029 approach (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:15PM (#42541429) Homepage Journal

        It's a lot easier to calculate orbit than mass, and the latter is pretty much irrelevant to the former--Earth is so much more massive than Apophis can possibly be that the asteroid's mass can be ignored in any orbital calculation. So we'll know if it's going to hit us or not, even if we don't know how big a boom it will make if it does hit.

        • Little do you realize that Apophis actually has a neutronium core and a near miss would sling the Earth out of its orbit. Ironically we should be hoping for a direct hit which, while devastating, would likely punch right through the planet and disrupt the Earths orbit far less, allowing for at least the hope of long-term survival :-P

    • So now the asteroid is estimated to be 325m not 270m across, it will be coming EVEN CLOSER at 35,999.945 km away? Eeek! run for the hills! we're dooomed Mr. Mainwaring!

  • Homeowners insurance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AndyKron (937105) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:57PM (#42541295)
    Will my homeowners insurance cover any damage should this hit, or would it be considered "an act of God"?
  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @09:59PM (#42541309)

    asteroid 99942 Apophis is actually bigger than we thought

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzZ4i8aWs_s [youtube.com]

    --
    BMO

  • Does that mean the hole has to be deeper than 800' for the nuclear weapon?

    • by mjwx (966435)
      Yes I know its a joke but... If we really wanted to use nukes on the asteroid wouldn't surface detonations to adjust it's trajectory would be better.
      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        The idea of drilling a tunnel is to focus the explosion so more energy goes upwards, similar to how guns use a barrel rather than just hitting a bullet at the explosive end pointed in the right direction. At a quick guess, a nuke in a moderately deep hole could have about twice the effect of a surface detonation, but that's assuming 100% of the charge gets directed upwards (some will go into the ground or be wasted by other things).

        • by mjwx (966435)

          The idea of drilling a tunnel is to focus the explosion so more energy goes upwards, similar to how guns use a barrel rather than just hitting a bullet at the explosive end pointed in the right direction. At a quick guess, a nuke in a moderately deep hole could have about twice the effect of a surface detonation, but that's assuming 100% of the charge gets directed upwards (some will go into the ground or be wasted by other things).

          But here we're talking about drilling a hole that can be used as a nozzle (to direct the energy) or finding a natural formation that can be used to the same effect. Something like this would be relatively shallow on an object 350 meters wide. I mean compared to trying to use the nuke to break the asteroid into smaller pieces.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          The problem with drilling a "barrel hole" in an unstable object though it that there's a chance that the "wasted" energy will be enough to fragment the object into so many pieces we cant hope to stop them, basically converting a rifle slug into shotgun pellets. Now if the original object is small enough that's okay, any fragments that hit us will burn up on entry with minimal damage, for a larger object though we've quite possibly turned a probable near miss into an almost guaranteed hit, and getting hit b

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:20PM (#42541481)

    "In April 2029 the space rock will still make a very close pass with our planet, coming within 22,364 miles"

    Being the skeptical engineer, I would say there is also a chance that on its multihundred million mile trip over the next decade and a half all it would take to nudge the orbit a slight amount to make the close pass a hit would be an encounter with another large object that affected its orbit ever so slightly...the wrong way.

    That orbital perturbation is random & would simply not be predictable.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @11:21PM (#42541967)

      That orbital perturbation is random & would simply not be predictable.

      Not exactly. It's passing by earth again in another 15 years or so -- and its orbit has to pass through a very small space in order for Earth's gravity to alter it just that tiny smidge so that over the following 15 years, that few thousands of a degree change due to gravitational pull will close that 22,364 mile gap. It has to be spot on -- if the vector is even slightly off, it'll either get slingshot out of the solar system (or into one of the outer planets), or into the Sun.

      While you're right that the energy required to move the asteroid into a collision path is low, it has to be the precise amount, and at the precise vector. A random preturbation has a very low chance of being at both the correct energy level, and at the correct vector. And even many such random preturbations still wouldn't alter the orbit enough that if we looked for it on its next approach in a very narrow region of the sky, we couldn't find it. Which means we'll know its coming, and we'll have several years' warning to take action. I just hope they can clone Bruce Willis before then.

      • I don't think the earth can give it enough energy to slingshot it out of the solar system. You would need Jupiter to do that.

        And despite appearances it is hard for it to go into the Sun. It is in orbit around the Sun so would need to slow down a LOT to fall into the Sun. Look up how complicated it was for the messenger spacecraft to get into Mercury 's orbit. It takes a lot of energy to slow down. It is not simply a matter of pointing yourself at the Sun. There is no atmosphere to slow you down. Not like ob

      • by Psyborgue (699890)
        i'm not an astrophysicist so I really have no clue about any of this, but wouldn't a large orbit big enough to be affected by earth's orbit also actually affect earth's orbit, even ever so slightly?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The orbit of Apophis ranges between 0.7 and 1.1 AU from the sun. In that range, there aren't any large objects it could encounter that we don't already know about. The major uncertainties in its projected orbit are from gravitational perturbations from the outer planets, sunlight pressure, etc., which are fairly well understood: it's quite certain that it won't hit the Earth in 2029.

      However, the encounter with the Earth in 2029 will put Apophis in a new orbit, which depends quite sensitively on how closel

    • by fatphil (181876)
      Being a skeptical engineer, I wouldn't parrot a misleading figure like "22364 miles". I wouldn't even use a more appropriate figure like "22000 miles", I'd use the original figure, in its original units - "36000 km". Of course, being an engineer, I'd want to attach a standard error to that measurement too, which seems to be about 10-20%.

      But yes, gravitational systems can behave stochastically. However, there are no objects heavy enough to tug on Apophis enough to perterb its orbit enough before 2029. Our sl
  • by mschaffer (97223) on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @10:59PM (#42541789)

    Well, obviously the asteroid had passed through the trans-fat and high-fructose corn syrup nebulae between photos.

  • ...those pills do work!

  • What's actually being done to prepare against an asteroid strike? Or are our government stooges just planning to throw every nuke we have at this thing?
  • First people get fatter

    Then the kilogram gains weight.

    Now Apophis is bigger too.

    Any speculations on what's next?

  • If the math is based on the old estimate then the projections for the future flybys will need to be revised. I don't know if they'll be closer or further away but massive is a major factor in how the asteroid will react to close passes with the Earth. 20% is a lot and the path will need revising. It's not a planet killer but it would make a mess of our current civilization depending on the type of impact.
  • Pfft (Score:5, Funny)

    by kiddygrinder (605598) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @04:36AM (#42543587)
    You asteroid alarmists are getting ridiculous, there isn't a scientific consensus that asteroids even exist, let alone that they are caused by humans
  • It was already that big. The only thing that happened was that it was measured better and turned out to be bigger than we previously thought.
  • Is not bigger, the rest of the universe got smaller.
  • the Higgs boson

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