Asteroid Apophis has not reached Earth yet; however, it has already excited comment on its possible and quick impact with the planet.
A 13-year-old German boy corrected NASA calculations and the forecast flight of the celestial body near the Earth, AFP reported with reference to Germany’s Postdamer Neueste Nachrichten. Young astronomer Nico Marquardt said that Apophis would near Earth in 2029 and would change its trajectory in such a way that it might hit the planet next time. NASA experts estimated the risk of the catastrophe at 1 to 45,000, while Marquardt’s calculations show it is 100 times more. The experts have reportedly acknowledged the boy’s calculations to be correct.
NASA reacted quite swiftly to the news and released an official statement. The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which made the calculations, “is not going to change its forecasts and points at a very low possibility (1 to 45,000) of Asteroid Apophis’ collision with Earth in 2036”. “NASA specialists who study near-Earth space neither had contacts nor did they receive any messages from the young German student who considers the collision is much more likely. He based his conclusions on the Asteroid Apophis’ possible collision with the artificial satellite when the asteroid approached Earth in 2029. However, the asteroid is not to reach the major belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029 and the possibility of the collision with the satellite is quite low. That is why the possibility of collision with the artificial satellite cannot affect the initial calculations of Asteroid Apophis’ collision with Earth, that is 1 to 45,000.”
According to LiveScience.com, stories about asteroids approaching Earth appear on a regular basis. At least once a year news stories about an imminent catastrophe spreads worldwide, but then it is refuted or the possibility of a catastrophe lowers to some thousandths of percent.
Late summer Apophis flew near our planet. Studies showed that the 1 to 45,000 chance of its getting into the “keyhole”, a dot in the space where gravity forces can turn it to the Earth. “It is quite an undertaking to estimate the danger with a low possibility,” said Michael DeKay from the Center for Risk Perception and Communication at Carnegie Mellon University. “Some people think that if the possibility is low, there is nothing to think about; others take into consideration the serious aftermath of the catastrophe and believe that even the lowest possibility is inadmissible.” According to calculations made by Stephen Chesley, who works on Near Earth Project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, we are not supposed not worry until 2013. The scientist said that Apophis will not approach satellites close enough for the risk of collision to appear. In his interview with New Scientist Chesley said: “We confirm our calculations and the idea that they were corrected is inadequate.”
Aldo Vitagliano from the University of Naples Federico II made his individual calculations of asteroids’ orbits and estimated possible risks. He agrees with NASA experts that corrections are inadequate. “The news is certainly a newspaper hoax,” said the scientist. “My calculations coincide with those of NASA Propulsion Laboratory.” It is only to be added that Chesley himself admitted that his laboratory constantly compares its calculations with those from other sources.
Therefore, the apocalypse seems to be postponed, but that does not mean that there is no looming threat of collision between large celestial bodies and planet Earth.
Translated by Julia Bulygina
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