“A scientist recently told me an interesting thing about the path [of an asteroid] constantly nearing Earth… He has calculated that it will surely collide with Earth in the 2030s,” Anatoly Perminov said during an interview with the Voice of Russia radio.
He referred to Apophis, an asteroid that he said was almost three times as large as the Tunguska meteorite. On June 30, 1908, an explosion equivalent to between 5 and 30 megatons of TNT occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in a remote region of Russia’s Siberia. The Tunguska blast flattened 80 million trees, destroying an area of around 2,150 sq km (830 sq miles).
Perminov said Russia was not planning to destroy the asteroid.
“No nuclear explosions [will be carried out], everything [will be done] on the basis of the laws of physics,” he said.
The Russian space official also said after having considered the project, Russia could invite experts from Europe, the United States and China to join it.
“People’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and design a system that would prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,” Perminov said.
Though Apophis is currently considered the largest threat to our planet, NASA scientists published in October an update of its orbit indicating “a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036.”
It said another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.
99942 Apophis is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a small probability (up to 2.7%) that it would strike the Earth in 2029. Additional observations provided improved predictions that eliminated the possibility of an impact on Earth or the Moon in 2029. However, a possibility remains that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis will pass through a gravitational keyhole, a precise region in space no more than about 600 meters across, that would set up a future impact on April 13, 2036. This possibility kept the asteroid at Level 1 on the Torino impact hazard scale until August 2006. It broke the record for the highest level on the Torino Scale, being, for only a short time, a level 4, before it was lowered
NASA initially estimated the energy that Apophis would have released if it struck Earth as the equivalent of 1,480 megatons of TNT. A later, more refined NASA estimate was 880 megatons. The impacts which created the Barringer Crater or the Tunguska event are estimated to be in the 3–10 megaton range.
The B612 Foundation made estimates of Apophis’ path if a 2036 Earth impact were to occur as part of an effort to develop viable deflection strategies. The result is a narrow corridor a few miles wide, called the path of risk, and it includes most of southern Russia, across the north Pacific (relatively close to the coastlines of California and Mexico), then right between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, crossing northern Colombia and Venezuela, ending in the Atlantic, just before reaching Africa. Using the computer simulation tool NEOSim, it was estimated that the hypothetical impact of Apophis in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela, which are in the path of risk, would have had more than 10 million casualties. An impact several thousand miles off the West Coast of the US would produce a devastating tsunami.[ The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was the equivalent of roughly 200 megatons.
Path of risk where 99942 Apophis may impact Earth in 2036. The exact effects of any impact would vary based on the asteroid’s composition, and the location and angle of impact. Any impact would be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometres.
Path of risk where 99942 Apophis may impact Earth in 2036. The exact effects of any impact would vary based on the asteroid’s composition, and the location and angle of impact. Any impact would be extremely detrimental to an area of thousands of square kilometres
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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