On Friday, April 13, 2029, Earth Has a 99.7 Percent Chance of Being Missed by an Asteroid—Is That Good Enough?

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A 25-million-ton 820-foot wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis will most likely whiz by the Earth at about 20,000 miles out on that day, according to an article on killer asteroids in the current issue of Popular Mechanics.  If this space mountain were to strike the planet it would hit with a force of 65,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs and could cause an 800 -foot tsunami. In other words, bad news for Mother Earth and for us.

So does humanity need a Planetary Protection Agency? And what about the Strong Gaia Hypothesis?

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  1. 99942 Apophis? Can’t we get Sam Carter to blow a sun up in its path, or something?

    Kevin

  2. An “asteriod”? What is that?

    1. Rob, you really should try to get out more. lol

  3. Use rockets to stop 99942 Apophis from spanking Earth Mother Gaia?

    Don’t you know that this approach is fundamentally immoral, because as a product of “linear, patriarchal, Western” thinking, it’s “merely a technological solution”?

  4. Isn’t the bigger risk from the asteroids we don’t detect this early? As I recall, we had a “near miss” (astronomically speaking) a decade or so ago, and they didn’t even see it coming until the last minute.

  5. on friday the 13th, c’mon could it get any better?

  6. Rob: Thanks for the proofreading help. 🙂 It’s fixed.

  7. “And what about the Strong Gaia Hypothesis?”

    Say what?

    “…devised in the 1970s by atmospheric chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis. In Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Lovelock and Margulis wrote, ‘The entire range of living matter on Earth from whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth’s atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts.'”

    “In Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Lovelock asked, ‘To what extent is our collective intelligence also a part of Gaia? Do we as a species constitute a Gaian nervous system and a brain which can consciously anticipate environmental changes?'”

    OK, I’m no philosopher, but isn’t this guy getting somewhat out of the realm of atmospheric science and into the metaphysics here?

  8. My understanding is that they KNOW that this asteroid won’t be hitting us in 2029. The issue is this: there is a 0.3% chance that the asteroid will pass through an area of space called the keyhole, whereupon its trajectory will be altered in just such a way that it WILL hit us in 2036. Scientists are saying we need to start figuring out a plan now, because anything we could do to stop this disaster would take decades to implement.

  9. Considering the massive cooling effect all the atmospheric particulates from a direct impact would have, perhaps we’ll end up needing all that excess CO2 in the atmosphere by then, if only to prevent us from slipping into another ice age.

    Burn more fossil fuels! Help protect us from 99942 Apophis!

  10. To hell with a solid meteor impacting the earth, I am more concerned about this!

    The more fragile the incoming object, the more likely these airborne explosions are to happen.

    In Southeast Asia, John Wasson has unearthed the remains of an event 800,000 years ago that was even more powerful and damaging than the one in the Egyptian desert; one which produced multiple fireballs and left glass over three hundred thousand square miles, with no sign of a crater.

    “Within this region, certainly all of the humans would have been killed. There would be no hope for anything to survive,” he said.

  11. Before we do anything, don’t we need to know which country it will hit?

  12. Kevin — I think she’s stuck in a parallel universe (or something). But maybe we can summon the Asgard.

  13. Interesting question, A.U. My guess is that if any European or third-world country were calculated to be in this thing’s path, there would be such a hue and cry in the UN for something to be done. On the other hand, if the United States seemed to be the target…

  14. Yes, CJ, because 800 foot high tsunamis are a highly local phenomenon. Not to mention dust-produced ‘winter’.

  15. CJ, if it is aimed at the US, we’ll just have FEMA take care of it; compared to Katrina, an explosion 5000 times as powerful as an atomic bomb shouldn’t be too hard to deal with.

  16. Is it too early to start investing in Acme Brand Tiny Umbrellas?

  17. If we learned anything from the movie Gorath, it’s that attaching giant jest to the earth so that we can fly it out of the path of an oncoming asteroid is worth the risk of the orbital shift unleashing a gigantic walrus from its icy prison.

  18. Thanks, Kwix, that’s interesting!

    Wasn’t there an event a few months ago in Sweden that flattened a herd of trees, too? I thought I remembered some farmer got a picture of the trail it left in the sky.

  19. The earth may already have been hit by strangelets twice in recent history; in Antarctica conveniently enough.

  20. Asteroid sizes follow a power-law distribution, which is a fancy way of saying that for one big one there’s a whole bunch of little ones (more info here). This creates, among other things, a substantial geopolitical risk of misinterpretation of a small (and therefore relatively common) impact event as a nuclear explosion.

  21. I volunteer to work with Sam Carter to whatever end….

  22. Although I know it was an innocent misspelling, I really like Keith’s idea of attaching giant jest to the Earth. I disclaim all responsibility for the walrus.

  23. I’m not worried. Out capacity to detect asteroids is a function of calculations per second, and this doubles every 18 months.

    But the Planetary Defense Agency is a good idea. And it should be done in a way that it is not just the US funding it. Get those Arab states and China to pay their fair share, damnit.

    Read here about how telescope power is accelerating.

    Read here about how Earth-link planets will be easily detectable by 2011.

  24. In case you’re interested, defeating the Rock and the so-called strong Gaia hypothesis is one of the themes of my science-fiction novel, “Outre Mer.” It’s set in a time a few generations after mankind stops a potentially civilization-killing asteroid, and looks upon free ranging rights in space as something of an entitlement.
    Preview it here:
    http://www.lulu.com/content/441712

  25. Re: “just a technological solution”, for some people it will be important to first ask the asteriod if it wants to change.

    From what I have read, preliminary impact is projected in the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles. The resultant wall of water, if it arrived at the right season, would at least put an end to the constant stream of Fox News Alerts that there is yet another fire in California. There are also apparently some downsides.

    According to the PM article, we need some better data to definitively chart the course and speed of the asteroid, but at this point it is expected to pass between us and our geosynchronous satellites in 2029, which is pretty close by astronomical standards.

  26. The Pop Mechanics article says:

    >>Scientists are 99.7 percent certain it will pass at a distance of 18,800 to 20,800 miles.

  27. And since most of my post mysteriously vanished, my point was that the chance of the thing hitting Earth is much less than 0.3%.

  28. Read here about how Earth-link planets will be easily detectable by 2011.

    So far, all we can detect are Yahoo planets.

  29. Had the Tunguska Meteorite (or comet-head, or wandering Black Hole…) impacted six hours later in 1907, it would have landed between Berlin and Paris in mid-afternoon. To this day, a batch of apocalyptic sycophants would be citing scriptures to justify God’s Ways to Man in terms of destroying European civilization.

    A century later, the impact of nihilistic Salafism funded by Wahabi petrodollars resembles Tunguska’s, many moons ago. But when murderous and stupid doctrines make a desert, the similarity with a looming asteroid typically escapes our ignorant and feckless powers-that-be.

  30. Anything that involves shooting missles at asteroids can’t be all bad.

    Not counting Armageddon ‘course.

    Now if we can just integrate it with an Asteroids video game console….

  31. I can hear the lefties now if we try to stop it:

    “We shouldn’t try, because we deserve what happens if it hits us.”

  32. “There are also apparently some downsides.”

    Darren wins the thread.

    What I found frustrating about the PM article [and the others I’ve seen] is that there is no forward projection from 2036. That pass will also deflect the asteroid.

    If anyone knows some orbital mechanics, I’d like some input here, as I have always understood that orbital trajectories tend to return through or near the point where the object was last deflected. For example, Shoemaker-Levy 9 had had a close encounter with Jupiter 2 to 3 years prior to the impact which both caused it to break up and deflected its orbit so that it would return to Jupiter.

    If I am wrong, please provide some assistance. If I am right, that means that 99942 Apophis will keep returning until it hits.

  33. The Tunguska event cause fires in Siberia that lit the night sky in Europe. The images were not understood until after atomic explosions revealed the effects of a huge airburst at altitude.

    We must be coming on the 100th anniversery of that event. It seems like events like this are somewhat common in human history. There was a case of the European monks who described an impact on the moon, and said that the moon appeared to vibrate like a bell for several minutes. My source for that last is that I read it in the book “The Rain of Iron and Ice”. That book had lots of historical references to impact events.

    The problem with getting serious attention for these kind of risks to the planet is that they cannot be plausibly blamed on free markets.

  34. It’s God’s punishment for letting the Democrats win…

  35. If this hits earth, those hardest hit will be women and minorities, so try and stay away from those folks.

    RK Jones

  36. On Friday, April 13, 2029, Earth Has a 99.7 Percent Chance of Being Missed by an Asteroid–Is That Good Enough?

    Isn’t that the very same day Social Security goes broke? I don’t believe in coincidences.

  37. …as I have always understood that orbital trajectories tend to return through or near the point where the object was last deflected. For example, Shoemaker-Levy 9 had had a close encounter with Jupiter 2 to 3 years prior to the impact which both caused it to break up and deflected its orbit so that it would return to Jupiter.

    What goes around, comes around.

  38. Man shouldn’t interfere with nature. If the asteroid is coming at us, we should let it hit. I’m starting a club.

  39. We need to pop that sucker into a stable orbit or augur it into the moon, and then mine it for the metals it contains. Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, just there for the taking.

  40. I bet that sucker would throw up a dust cloud that would stop global warming in its tracks.

    Since there is nothing worse than global warming, I propose putting some rockets on it so we can steer it and make damn sure it hits the Earth. And since the US is the worst offender when it comes to global warming (and just about anything else), I propose we aim it at the US. That would solve everyone’s problems!

  41. If we did anything, wouldn’t that upset the delicate ecosystem of the meteor?

    Besides, once Bush is out of office, this comet will no longer be headed towards us.

    And it is all about oil.

  42. I was for 99942 Apophis before I was against it.

  43. What does RC Dean know that we don’t? Is this a conspiracy of the neo-cons, the Israelis, the Bushie folks behind 9/11, the guys who faked the moon landing, the commies, the joos, the blacks, the Bilderbergs, The Queen, the descendants of Booth and Stanton, Chavez, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pope? Surely, someone somewhere is behind this pending catastrophe? First, let’s figure out who will be President in 2029 and see how they can be linked to the dark forces that could plausibly pull off this stunt.

  44. What does RC Dean know that we don’t?

    A lot more of you should be wondering this.

  45. My, there are some funny posts here, I like this thread. But aside from that:

    If anyone knows some orbital mechanics, I’d like some input here, as I have always understood that orbital trajectories tend to return through or near the point where the object was last deflected.

    This could really only be true (or so it seems to me) if a smaller object (the comet for example) were trapped in a larger object’s gravity well (the sun, for example). This would mean a comet is eventually going to return to the sun–it’s never going to leave the sun’s gravity, ever.

    But for Shoemaker-Levy 9, I would think it is coincidence that it impacted Jupiter. (That word is so rarely used correctly, but I digress.) The comet had to pass close to some other body in order to be deflected back to Jupiter. Mainly, comets in our solar system are rolling around in the bowl of the sun’s gravity, occasionally being tweaked by the much smaller indentations of planetary gravity. Most will never leave the sun’s gravity well, but the change caused by passing near any one planetary gravity well doesn’t mean the comet must necessarily return to that planet. That said, Jupiter is large, and its gravity well is large, so it probably gathers in more than its share of comets anyway.

  46. i>The problem with getting serious attention for these kind of risks to the planet is that they cannot be plausibly blamed on free markets.

    Yes, moptop, and like climate change, we know that free markets are the solution to this problem.

    We hardly need a bunch of excitable do-gooders like former astronaut Rusty Schweickart telling us that “We need to act,” or that “If we blow this, it’ll be criminal.” Nor do we need cheap magazines like Popular Mechanics trying to make a buck by flogging fears of millenarial events. And we certainly don’t need a bunch of government bureaucrats to be looking for problems as a means of expanding their budgets, nor should we even think of relying on them for solutions!

    We can rely on the power of human creativity and private actions, acting freely through enforceable contracts to generate appropriate solutions, including both any feasible and marketable mitigation actions as well as all appropropriate adaptation measures. Anything more is unacceptable from a libertarian viewpoint, would be a tax on our economy that would damage our international competiveness (as well as a theft of tax dollars), and likely lead to world government.

    It’s perfectly fine to draw attentin to possible problems, but the drumbeat for a “government solution” must exposed for the fraud that it is!

  47. ” And since the US is the worst offender when it comes to global warming (and just about anything else), I propose we aim it at the US. That would solve everyone’s problems!”

    but by then China will be the worlds worst offender. I say lets stear it towards them.

    And then China sez: Shheeeet! On no yu Don! We steeer to Indeeah!

    And Australia sez: WTF

    TokyoTom’s notion of making a Market parking asteroids sound good to me.

    “I volunteer to work with Sam Carter to whatever end….”,/b>

    I got dibbs on her rear.

    1. seriously?

  48. what a coincidence! friday the 13th. WOW! it wont hit earth though.

  49. with this motherf.. meteor I wish it would come on 2012 so that all of you could be finised than waiting on 2039 …

  50. invalid sources; go on a trusted site like nasa.gov instead of an ‘article’ on “killer asteroids” in the current issue of the Popular Mechanics. Stop boosting the situation. The asteroid which is approx. 320 meters wide will come no more then 29,800 million kilometers to earth. There is no chance of it hitting earth in 2029; there is no chance of it even hitting a satellite. If it did hit the ocean yes it would create tsunamis but not 800 foot

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