by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Apr 16, 2008
The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036.
Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.
This student's conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid's close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote.
Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.
NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
earlier related report
Nico Marquardt used teleascopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.
NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.
The schoolboy took into consideration the risk of Apophis running into one or more of the 40,000 satellites orbiting Earth during its path close to the planet on April 13 2029.
Those satellites travel at 3.07 kilometres a second (1.9 miles), at up to 35,880 kilometres above earth -- and the Apophis asteroid will pass by earth at a distance of 32,500 kilometres.
If the asteroid strikes a satellite in 2029, that will change its trajectory making it hit earth on its next orbit in 2036.
Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.
The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.
The 13-year old made his discovery as part of a regional science competition for which he submitted a project entitled: "Apophis -- The Killer Astroid."
NEOs at JPL
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology
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