Friday, February 05, 2010

It’s the Footnote in Nasa’s Report that Worries Me—Just Another Asteroid Heading our way, eh? Ho Hum, Nothing to Worry about….?

It’s the Footnote in Nasa’s Report that Worries Me—Just Another Asteroid Heading our way, eh? Ho Hum, Nothing to Worry about….?

By Kevin Stoda, Germany


http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/08/earth-scars/map-interactive

In January 2010, I barely followed the scientific and popular discussions around the world concerning whether the Apophis Asteroid will hit the earth—either in 2029 or 2036. I scoffed at the Russian worries that the earth might be hit or even disturbed by the comet.

http://www.blokster.de/270401/orakel-killer-asteroid-apophis-soll-2029-auf-die-erde-knallen.html

German newspapers raised images of a group of Russian Bruce Willis’ having to flight out into space and destroy the incoming Apophis Asteroid.

http://english.pravda.ru/science/tech/30-12-2009/111499-asteroid_apophis-0

I glanced at a NASA report from 2009 stating their findings:

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/apophis/

“The future for Apophis on Friday, April 13 of 2029 includes an approach to Earth no closer than 29,470 km (18,300 miles, or 5.6 Earth radii from the center, or 4.6 Earth-radii from the surface) over the mid-Atlantic, appearing to the naked eye as a moderately bright point of light moving rapidly across the sky. Depending on its mechanical nature, it could experience shape or spin-state alteration due to tidal forces caused by Earth's gravity field. This is within the distance of Earth's geosynchronous satellites. However, because Apophis will pass interior to the positions of these satellites at closest approach, in a plane inclined at 40 degrees to the Earth's equator and passing outside the equatorial geosynchronous zone when crossing the equatorial plane, it does not threaten the satellites in that heavily populated region. Using criteria developed in this research, new measurements possible in 2013 (if not 2011) will likely confirm that in 2036 Apophis will quietly pass more than 49 million km (30.5 million miles; 0.32 AU) from Earth on Easter Sunday of that year (April 13).”

I later read other online critiques, too, such as.

“It’s important to note that NASA didn’t just pull these numbers out of a hat; the space agency has been tracking Apophis intently since its discovery, plotted its position and projected its location to a very high degree of precision. The more we watch Apophis, the more the world’s scientists are convinced that the asteroid poses a very tiny risk to life on Earth. In fact, giving anything a 1-in-250,000 chance of happening is more of a courtesy than a ‘risk.’ Granted, we’re talking about a global catastrophe should Apophis hit, but would you ever bet on those kinds of odds?”

http://www.astroengine.com/?p=6989

Everywhere Americans were pooh-poohing Russian concerns. Read this DISCOVERY piece:

“Really, you can sleep easy now. Apophis has become a very (very) unlikely doomsday candidate.”

http://news.discovery.com/space/the-1-in-250000-threat-of-asteroid-apophis-impact-downgraded.html

However, I went back to the NASA site today—after hearing about how many big cuts NASA will receive from the federal government and American military overt the next year—and looked carefully at a note at the bottom of the NASA report on “Apophis Asteroid”. [NASA is set to stop most all major new programs planned for this decade.]

http://cbs4.com/local/NASA.moon.apollo.2.1462701.html

The newest “footnote”, dated April 2009, said:

“2009-Apr-29: This animation illustrates how the unmeasured physical parameters of Apophis bias the entire statistical uncertainty region. If Apophis is a RETROGRADE rotator on the small, less-massive end of what is possible, the measurement uncertainty region will get pushed back such that the center of the distribution encounters the Earth's orbit. This would result in an impact probability much higher than computed with the Standard Dynamical Model. Conversely, if Apophis is a small, less-massive PROGRADE rotator, the uncertainty region is advanced along the orbit. Only the remote tails of the probability distribution could encounter the Earth, producing a negligible impact probability. Although measurements in 2010-2011 may cut the size of the measurement uncertainty region greatly and result in an "all clear" using the Standard Dynamical Model, it may not be until Arecibo radar in 2013 provides a spin direction that Earth's passage through the probability distribution center can be ruled out.”



Read the last line of that NOTE again:


“Although measurements in 2010-2011 may cut the size of the measurement uncertainty region greatly and result in an "all clear" using the Standard Dynamical Model, it may not be until Arecibo radar in 2013 provides a spin direction that Earth's passage through the probability distribution center can be ruled out.”



Let me see. Let us imagine that in 2013, we discover Russia’s worries were correct and NASA’s 2007-2008 study is way off. The world may be up the proverbial creek.
Currently, following the last Shuttle launch is made this year or in 2011, America’s NASA will have no planned man missions to space using any replacement shuttle or launcher until at least the end of this decade.



http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/jan-june10/nasa_02-02.html



In conclusion, I sure hope that NASA was right three or more years ago when it decided to pooh-pooh any worries about an asteroid hitting earth in my lifetime. However, what if a new footnote in 2013 increases American worries again?
If NASA is shown to be wrong in 2013, i.e. after much data is available as the asteroid becomes more visible, then I pray that Russia will have continued to take this asteroid issue seriously.



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703580904574638230276797924.html

Labels:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home