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February 04, 2011

Will Apophis hit Earth?

Apparently a few years ago, NASA announced that the asteroid Apophis would hit the Earth in the year 2029. After some recalculations, astronomers contradicted this announcement saying that there really was no chance of the asteroid coming into contact with Earth. However, recently Russian scientists have again recalculated and determined that the asteroid, which is the size of two football fields, will hit closer to April of 2036. NASA scientists admitted that this recalculation is the most accurate as of now, but there is still only a one in 250,000 chance that the asteroid will ever hit. The asteroid is thought to go through a region in space called a "gravitational keyhole" where the effects of Earth's gravity will be weakened, thus allowing it to approach our planet. Although the chances of a hit are small, if the likelihood hasn't changed by 2036 NASA will likely build a spacecraft to be sent into space to hit the asteroid and knock it off course.

I thought this was interesting because, as we learned in class, gravitational pulls can greatly affect the path of space matter. Simply passing by another planet could significantly alter Apophis' route. So, for all we know (at least those of us who aren't astronomical experts) this asteroid could be harmlessly orbiting around Jupiter in a few years, having gotten close to its gravitational field. It should be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years. NASA has certainly broken up large space matter before, but it may never have to come to that. Doomsday 2036? In the case that we all survive 12/21/12, I think not.

Here's the link, it's a beast:

Posted by kailjoyb at February 4, 2011 08:48 PM


I apologize guys. It looks like my link got a little messed up. You have to scroll way over to the right to get the entire thing.

Posted by: kailjoyb at February 4, 2011 09:12 PM

What an inefficient link!
Pressing onward, it's crazy how meticulous calculations have to be, factoring in different gravities, orbits, everything! Reading the article, it says that it will pass by earth in late 2012/early 2013. Hmm, so there's a decisive time when the asteroid may pass through the "keyhole," but I thought it was unclear if that time would be in 2012 or 2029? What do you guys think?
Awesome article btw; our lives are at risk!

Posted by: ddeemidd at February 6, 2011 12:16 AM

It looks like they were saying by 2012 or 2013 they could figure out whether or not it would have a good chance of passing through the keyhole and if it did they would shoot it off course.
It mentioned Deep Impact in the article which is a very interesting case. Nasa launched a spacecraft and rammed a probe into the asteroid Tempel 1. The spacecraft broke into a flyby probe and an impactor.

Posted by: stoneswt at February 18, 2011 07:07 PM

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