Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apophis Day postponed until 2068

Remember what I wrote about April 13, which I christened Apophis Day?
[T]here is an event in the more distant future that fits one of the themes of this blog, disasters with a science fiction flavor, perfectly--the first of two close approaches of the asteroid Apophis, which is predicted to happen on Friday, April 13, 2029. The second pass of the asteroid will also happen on April 13th of 2036. So, today's date, April 13th, will be day of the year when both approaches of Apophis happen. I christen it Apophis Day!
It looks like that possible date with doom will be postponed at least three decades.

L.A. Times: Doomsday chances dim: Asteroid won't hit Earth in 2036, NASA says
By Amina Khan
January 11, 2013, 6:08 p.m.
Sad day for the four horsemen of the Apocalypse: NASA scientists say a giant asteroid won’t be hitting Earth in 2036, as earlier feared.

The asteroid Apophis has less than a 1-in-a-million chance of smacking into the planet, according to Don Yeomans, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program manager.

The hefty space rock was estimated to have a 2.7% chance of hitting Earth in 2029 after it was discovered in 2004, according to a NASA statement released Thursday. Although scientists later ruled out the 2029 scenario, there was still a chance Apophis would hit Earth some seven years later.
The Space Reporter elaborates on this story in Asteroid Apophis may be on course for 2068 collision with Earth
“I’m hoping that we don’t follow the bad precedent of stating that the risk from Apophis has been eliminated,” said Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart, a leader in raising awareness about the threats and opportunities presented by near-Earth objects, in an interview with NBC News. “Please look on the JPL risk page and especially the more detailed info and note that 1) The 2036 impact possibility is, while significantly reduced, still possible, and 2) that the 2068 impact possibility is now elevated … to a level that exceeds what the 2036 impact was prior to this apparition.”

“Until JPL and the other guys get more data, enough to really define the Yarkovsky effect,” Schweickart continued, “we really won’t be able to get definitive data for longer time scales that we can rely on.”

The good news is that our species now has the observational technology to spot asteroids that pose a risk to the Earth several decades in advance. The bad news is that we are still completely unprepared to deflect a large rock if it is in fact on a collision course with our planet.
It's time to add Rusty Schweikert to the list of Crazy Eddies--and that's a good thing.

As for April 13th, I'll still be celebrating it on this blog as an instance of doomsday averted.  Good news, everyone!

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