It is comforting to imagine that with both space and Earth-based telescopes trained on the universe, we will be able to place any dangerous-sized asteroids about a mile into our path, giving them white color or It will take a lot of time to overcome them.
But every asteroid we see coming in its direction is a number we miss until they fly over it.
And even for those we already know, it can still be hardly mitigated by how likely the collision of the Earth actually is.
Asteroid 99942 Apophis is one of these asteroids, whose orbit can pass very close to the Earth for comfort.
Discovered in 2004, a 370-meter (1,210-foot) rocky blob is on NASA’s sentry list – a list of asteroids we should keep an eye on – and although scientists surpassed any chance of hitting it during its closest flyby. have done it. In 2029, they are not so sure that it will not come before us in 2068 because it comes again this way.
While the risk of the Apophis hitting Earth in 2068 is in the region of 1 in 150,000, an asteroid that would cause an explosion larger than an atomic bomb in size, so it’s best to double check the numbers.
And a presentation at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences Virtual Conference probably won’t make you sleep better at night.
At the end of last month, University of Hawaii astronomer David Thole presented his and his colleague David Fernochia’s research after observing the asteroid for three nights in January and on one night in March.
They were able to get incredibly accurate information about the asteroid, and were able to detect Yarkovsky acceleration – meaning that the asteroid would more strongly heat its hemisphere over the Sun than its shadow side, causing There is an odd push, which changes its orbit slightly.
When you work that acceleration into an asteroid model, “it basically means that the 2068 impact scenario is still in play,” Thrawlen explains in his presentation.
“We need to track this asteroid very carefully – obviously the 2029 closer approach is critical.”
April 2029 near approach is going to be very close (closer than some of our communications satellites) and this gives scientists a very important opportunity to study the apophyses in exceptionally high detail.
And with less than nine years to go, the Lunar and Planetary Institute held a virtual workshop earlier this month to try and get that ball rolling.
“The planet of knowledge is the first line of defense, and the 2029 Apophis encounter is once per thousand years of opportunity,” says the lunar and planetary institutions.
“We have less than a decade to plan an Earth-based and possible in-situ mission, measuring which provides unprecedented detailed knowledge on the physical nature of apophyses as prototype examples (poster children) of potentially dangerous asteroids. Could. “
If we are lucky, we might get a Benue style mission to Apophis to explore the asteroid with a spacecraft, to find out that the telescope alone cannot expect us to show up.
This asteroid “presents an excellent opportunity for prototyping and exhibits a rapid response near the reconnaissance potential of Earth’s orbit,” Brent Barbie, an aerospace engineer at the University of Maryland, explained at the conference, according to Gizmodo.
While George Dvorsky at Gizmodo underscores some of the possibilities, we are still celebrating what kind of scientific welcome mat we are going to give Apophis.
Whether it is a new spacecraft, a quick detour to OSIRIS-Rex, or purely ground-based observation, we are about to learn a lot about our close neighbor – and hopefully we will be confirmed once and for all. Can the apophis come crashing into our place. In 2068. Then, we can know what to do next.