Thursday, January 10, 2013

We're All Gonna ... Nevermind: January 10, 2013 Edition

In case you were worried about reports like this one from the BBC yesterday:

A 300 metre-wide [1000 ft.] asteroid is making a close pass to the Earth.

Apophis - named after the Egyptian demon of destruction and darkness - has been put on a watch list by scientists.

They have calculated that in 2036 there is a very small chance it could collide with our planet.

Apophis asteroid: Large space rock flies past Earth

Well, nevermind, as NASA announced today:

NASA scientists at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., effectively have ruled out the possibility the asteroid Apophis will impact Earth during a close flyby in 2036. The scientists used updated information obtained by NASA-supported telescopes in 2011 and 2012, as well as new data from the time leading up to Apophis' distant Earth flyby yesterday (Jan. 9).

NASA Rules Out Earth Impact in 2036 for Asteroid Apophis provided this graphic to explain it all:

Find out about asteroid Apophis' close shave flyby in this infographic.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

So, bottom line:

  • 2029: Close, but within the altitude for a geosynchronous orbit, 36,000 km [22,000 mi.]
  • 2036: Not that close, actually.

Now you can worry about something else for the next twenty years. You're welcome.

As I've mentioned before, though, this is mainly a worry because we have almost nothing in the way of a manned spaceflight program anymore. Had we been producing ships capable of interplanetary flight, we'd at least have the possibility of deflecting Apophis-sized asteroids or destroying them before they reach Earth. Twenty years' lead time is a long time, and sometimes just a little push way ahead of time can turn a hit into another near miss.

Both the and NASA links discuss the fact that there are lots more asteroids out there, and more than a few comets.

Sadly, our government is far more interested in blowing up other countries and making the world safe for bank fraud than it is about things like exploring the universe or avoiding real disasters.

UPDATE: The initial version of this article used the words "asynchronous orbit", which as far as I know isn't even a real term. What I meant was "geosynchronous orbit".


One Fly said...

"our government is far more interested in blowing up other countries and making the world safe for bank fraud"

The New American Way and it sucks.

Cujo359 said...

I don't think we ever adjusted our thinking from the Cold War. It used to be that we had real enemies, and real threats to our nation from other countries. That's really not true now, but we still behave as though it is. Meanwhile, we continue to ignore these other things, which we now know to be inevitable, not merely possible.

Joyce L. Arnold said...

"Blowing up other countries and making the world safe for bank fraud" are more lucrative for the Electeds and Elites than exploration or designing ways to avoid "real disasters." Plus, there's a much faster turn-around on the profit to be made. Of course you know all of that.

Cujo359 said...

Hi, Joyce,

I think the bottom line is that our politicians and their owners are better served by the way things work now. Plus, short-term profit seems to be the thing we crave nowadays. It's hard to imagine this crew of leaders starting anything like the Interstate highway system, the moon landings, or anything else that would clearly come to fruition during someone else's administration.