[I actually wrote this post about 6 months ago on another website, then later moved it here, which means the publish date on this blog is not accurate.]
First of all, don’t get your panties in a wad, as this is not a doom & gloom post (although I’m way overdue for one of those) and I’m not saying that the asteroid named Apophis will strike Earth in 2029 or 2036. However, it is an interesting topic and I recently did a quick search over what people are saying about this subject along with various hypothetical ways to deflect an asteroid – in the event we ever have a big one coming our way. On a good note, as of today, there are no major impacts scheduled anytime soon, but things can change if ya know what I mean.
Many folks were chattering about a smaller asteroid (estimated to be around 150 feet across) called “2012 DA14,” that will give Earth an uncomfortably close shave on Feb. 15, 2013, albeit it will pose no threat to us, according to NASA scientists. Anyway, before we begin to ponder over hypothetical ways to deflect an asteroid, I will say that Apophis is one of the more talked about threats. I find it amusing that they named this lovely celestial body after an evil God in Egyptian mythology that represents darkness and chaos. Oh well, I suppose a threatening name is a good counter for something that is supposedly so harmless; ha!
This particular asteroid is estimated to be around 1,000 feet in diameter (plus or minus), which could definitely do some damage upon impact. Originally, it was said that a possible collision with Earth could occur during 2029, but later, it was thought to have a better chance during the year 2036. Hell yeah! That’s 7 extra years! Ha! Fear not, as the all-knowing super-beings from Wikipedia say that it is only a 1 in 250,000 chance that Apophis will drop the bottom out of Mother Earth. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99942_Apophis ]
When Apophis passes by Earth in 2029, it will most likely change its orbit due to Earth’s gravity tugging on it (hence the image above), but this may make the odds go up for a 2036 impact, even though they seem slim at the moment. Only time will tell, as I’d be glad to know that mankind hasn’t blown the planet up by then – with or without an asteroid impact. If you’d like to read more about this particular subject, you can find articles about such things over at Space.com and Nasa.gov on their “Near Earth Object Program” page. You may also want to research the Palermo Scale values… The Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale is used by astronomers to rate the potential hazard of impact of an NEO (near-earth object).
Okay, lets change subjects for now and head on into the hypothetical ways we could possibly deflect an asteroid. If the time comes, if we haven’t already destroyed the planet ourselves, when we have a large object heading toward Earth, I have wondered many times if we will have the technology and/or know-how to deflect it. If, if, if, I know… Too many IFs!
Anyway, the first thought that most likely enters many of our minds is probably: “lets just blow the thing up like on the 1998 film “Armageddon,” although many astronomers and scientists will probably tell you that this is not the best option and how difficult it would be – especially if it wasn’t detected far enough away from us; it looks great on film, though!
Of course, I’d like for people to share their ideas on the many possible ways this daunting task could be performed, but I can’t depend on a comment field for answers to hypothetical situations, etc. I did happen to land on a page that shared several ideas, and spoke about how scientists plan to deflect Earth-bound asteroids in the future, although nothing promising and noteworthy has spawned from this, as of yet. It is nice to know that at least the ESA (European Space Agency), NASA, SWF (Secure World Foundation) among many others, are at least thinking about it. The source was from Fox News, on this page: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/08/16/space-mission-aims-to-blast-asteroid-headed-for-earth/
Some of the wild ideas involved concerning asteroid deflection were: spreading a big white sheet over it, paint it white to increase the reflectivity (WTF?), use a satellite to dock a motor with a thruster on the asteroid (it would have to be really far away for this to work), use laser technology (sounds cool), a “mass projector” that would slowly chisel away at the surface, a massive spacecraft that could slowly pull an asteroid off path, along with other crazy ideas like the use of magnetic tractors and sails to utilize solar winds, of all things.
On second thought, after reading all of that, lets just blast the things. When the time comes, maybe we will be saying stuff like this: “Photon Torpedoes . . . Fire!”
—Update to the post “Hypothetical ways to deflect an Asteroid – Apophis 2029 or 2036?”
I recently read an update from NASA on a Yahoo! News page that said: “The Earth is safe from the giant asteroid Apophis when it flies extremely close to our planet in 2029, then returns for seconds in 2036, NASA scientists announced today (Jan. 10, 2013). The chances of an impact in 2036 are less than one in a million, they added.
Asteroid Apophis — which is the size of three and a half football fields — was discovered in June 2004 and gained infamy after a preliminary study suggested it had a 2.7 percent chance of hitting the Earth during its 2029 flyby. Subsequent observations ruled out an impact in 2029, but astronomers were closely studying Apophis’ return in 2036.
Now, new observations of asteroid Apophis recorded Wednesday (Jan.9, 2013) have revealed the space rock poses no real threat to the Earth in 2036, NASA officials said.”
Well, they killed all the doom & gloom chatter on this particular space rock, before it even got started; ha!
—Update: Well, it is now well into March, 2013, and we are hearing a lot of chatter about these flying rocks, of late. Yet another article on Yahoo! about such things, here: “Earth gets a rush of weekend asteroid visitors.” <– Link is no longer active.
—End of Post