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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Apophis Hypothesis

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Not to alarm you, but Russian scientists estimate Earth will be hit by an asteroid on April 13, 2036. Should we start packing our bags now? And where would we go?

In 2004, NASA suggested the possibility that the asteroid called Apophis, bigger than two football fields, might collide with our planet in 2029. Further computations changed their minds about that prediction.

And now, Russian figures give us a new date for a possible encounter with the giant rock from space.

"Technically, they're correct -- there is a chance in 2036" that Apophis will hit Earth, Donald Yeomans, head of NASA's Near Earth Object Program, told the Life's Little Mysteries website.

But Yeomans added that the odds of this happening are only 1 in 250,000.

Last month, Leonid Sokolov of Russia's St. Petersburg State University announced that "Apophis will approach Earth at a distance of 37,000 to 38,000 kilometers on April 13, 2029. Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036."

But Sokolov also conceded that a 2036 collision was unlikely because scientists should be able to figure out a way to prevent it.

"Our task is to consider various alternatives and develop scenarios and plans of action, depending on the results of further observations of Apophis," Sokolov told RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency.

The Russian researchers theorize that the nearly 1,000-foot-diameter Apophis might pass through an area in space called a gravitational keyhole in its 2029 pass of Earth. This keyhole might alter the asteroid's course and aim it for a more direct hit of our home planet.

Yeomans explains that NASA isn't concerned about Apophis coming too close to us in 2029.

 

"We've already ruled out the possibility of it hitting at that time," he said. "On the other hand, if it goes through what we call a keyhole during that close Earth encounter ... then it will indeed be perturbed just right so that it will come back and smack Earth on April 13, 2036."

But he added that the chance of this happening is very small.

Many works of science fiction and movies have imagined the staggering aftermath of an asteroid hitting the Earth, including "Meteor" (1979) and 1998's "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon."

If it turns out that Apophis seems truly destined to beat the odds and collide with us, Yeomans said, NASA will come up with a plan and the necessary technology to alter the asteroid's path in 2036.

And in case you missed it while going about your daily routine, a 4-foot-wide asteroid flew within 3,400 miles of Earth just last Friday, according to NASA.

But even if its trajectory had been more direct, it would have likely burned up in the atmosphere before hitting anything below.

Source: AOL News

 
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