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Space Science

Asteroid Highlighted as Impact Threat 297

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."
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Asteroid Highlighted as Impact Threat

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  • 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.
  • Re:great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JamesTRexx ( 675890 ) <marcel...nystrom@@@mail...com> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:24PM (#18055802) Homepage Journal
    [doomsday thinking]
    What, you think our governments would be able to get their shit together before 2036 knowing this now?
    [/doomsday thinking]
  • Re:Aw geez.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kramer ( 19951 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:07PM (#18056178) Homepage
    Unless they get more precise knowledge of the orbit, intervention right now could be worse than doing nothing. You might, for example, accidentally turn what would have been a near miss into a direct hit. The most useful course of action right now would probably be to deposit some sort of radio beacon on the asteroid in order to increase the accuracy of the orbital measurements.
  • Real blame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blahpony ( 1065454 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:09PM (#18056192)
    The MPAA and RIAA will just blame the tsunami on piracy.
  • 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 DeadChobi ( 740395 ) <DeadChobi.gmail@com> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:16PM (#18056538)
    What this says is that every so often something terrible like an asteroid smacking us does happen. What that means is that if the odds are high that this one will hit us, we should actually focus on planning for it like we do with all the other natural disasters instead of ignoring it because it rarely happens. That's like calling nature's bluff, and nature is quite often a very mean poker player. If we have a chance to save lives in a few decades, why not start planning now? It's not wasted energy when someone's life is involved. We already plan for lifesaving in floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, et. al.. Just add "giant tsunami triggered by an asteroid impact wiping the California coastline clean" to your list.
  • by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:50PM (#18056692)
    The thing about asteroids and comets is that they are out there in space for us to observe, and we can predict their movements pretty well. That means that unlike an earthquake or a volcano, we can know about an asteroid or comet strike years - even decades in advance. And that means we have time to do something about it. We could actually prevent these disasters. Given that a strike could wipe out the human race entirely, that justs makes it even more prudent to divert some resources to asteroids and comets.

    Also, when studying history, don't forget the asteroid that came down over Siberia in 1908. Luckily few were hurt, but if that happened over a major city today, it could postentially kill millions.
  • by Yahweh Doesn't Exist ( 906833 ) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @11:26PM (#18056874)
    >The Tunguska event had the uncanny luck of happening over land and in one of the world's least populated areas. What are the odds of THAT happening again?

    something like (1/45000) * (1/10) ?
  • Re:Priorities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday February 18, 2007 @01:00AM (#18057278) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Sunday February 18, 2007 @01:26AM (#18057408) Journal

    ....I think that there are more commonplace disasters we need to worry about, like earthquakes and tsunamis, which involve more boring, mundane solutions, like good building codes, tsunami warning networks, tsunami evacuation sirens, and flood control.

    You worry about those things. Let the Asteroid worriers worry about asteroids. There are billions of us. We can divide the worrying up and not all worry about the same thing. That way when you figure out a way to save us all from earthquakes, you won't immediately drop dead of ebola.

    Seriously, if somebody doesn't get a plan for dealing with asteroids, mankind will end. No Earthquake, tsunami, famine, plague, global warming or war will do that. It isn't a question of if the asteroid is coming, but when. It's not likely to hit today, and on the 112th day of 2076 it's equally unlikely. In the fullness of time it's not just likely, it is certain. There is no more "realistic" worry than the certain end of all mankind. If the next dinosaur killer arrives and we have no plan for preventing it or dealing with it, or at least have an offsite backup, there will be no second chance; we will have had our go at Darwin's test and failed. Please -- for the sake of the children -- leave the asteroid scientists to their work.

    Oh, and if you figure out a cure for tsunamis that doesn't involve moving our huts further from the sea do please let us know.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 18, 2007 @01:29AM (#18057442)
    So if I want to be a sex offender and get away with it, the first step is to burn all my Star Trek uniforms, prosthetic ears, etc.?
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Sunday February 18, 2007 @03:48AM (#18058146) Journal

    The Tunguska event had the uncanny luck of happening over land and in one of the world's least populated areas

    It also happened several decades before a nuclear power could misinterpret the event as a first-strike. AFAIK, North American monitoring can tell the difference between something like an asteroid vs. a missile, based on trajectory. They probably coordinate with other types of observers too, since they're monitoring things like space junk already. The irregular streak of a comet or asteroid is very different from an incoming missile. I'm not too concerned about a comet explosion in California being misinterpreted. OTOH, what if that system fails somehow, and all they have to go on is "we have reports of a huge explosion that just wiped out LA". How will they respond?

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.