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Earth’s gravity may lure deadly asteroid
The Times (UK) ^ | April 18, 2005 | By Nigel Hawkes

Posted on 04/18/2005 7:21:31 AM PDT by aculeus

A HUGE asteroid which is on a course to miss the Earth by a whisker in 2029 could go round its orbit again and score a direct hit a few years later.

Astronomers have calculated that the 1,000ft-wide asteroid called 2004 MN4 will pass by the Earth at a distance of between 15,000 and 25,000 miles — about a tenth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon and close enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Although they are sure that it will miss us, they are worried about the disturbance that such a close pass will give to the asteroid’s orbit. It might put 2004 MN4 on course for a collision in 2034 or a year or two later: the unpredictability of its behaviour means that the danger might not become apparent until it is too late.

As a safety precaution, some experts are calling for 2004 MN4 to be “tagged” with a transponder that would constantly radio its position. Scientists hope that this would provide enough warning to allow emergency action if necessary, possibly by diverting the object away from the Earth.Other instruments on the probe could provide information about its composition.

Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, who is an expert on asteroid hazards, said: “We don’t know what that asteroid is made of and that might influence the way it’s affected by the Earth’s gravitational pull. There are other close approaches, in 2034 and 2035. In all likelihood it will produce an orbit that will not intercept the Earth, but we don’t know.”

The asteroid is big enough to cause damage on a regional scale, with an expected impact equivalent to a 1,000-megatonne explosion. It was discovered last June and its orbit plotted in detail by December. Startled astronomers calculated at one point that its chances of a direct hit on Friday, April 13, 2029, were 1 in 38. But additional calculations have set those fears to rest. The asteroid is now expected to miss but come close enough to be below the altitude of TV satellites. It should be visible as a rapidly moving point of light.

Brian Marsden, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, expects the close encounter to increase the frequency of the asteroid’s orbit, creating the possibility of further close encounters every five to nine years.

An interceptor mission is feasible and Dr Peiser said that an opportunity would arise in 2012, when 2004 MN4 will be ten million miles from Earth. “That’s not a big distance as far as space missions go,” he said.

“This is most likely not the object with our number on it, but one day we will have to address this question and we’ll need the technology. A transponder mission should not be too complicated or costly, and would provide a lot of vital data.”

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.


TOPICS: Extended News
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1 posted on 04/18/2005 7:21:32 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: aculeus

WE'RE DOOMED!


2 posted on 04/18/2005 7:23:51 AM PDT by dfwgator (Minutemen: Just doing the jobs that American politicians won't do.)
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To: aculeus
We're DOOMED!!


3 posted on 04/18/2005 7:23:55 AM PDT by Condor51 (Leftists are moral and intellectual parasites - Standing Wolf)
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To: dfwgator

ya beat me by 4 seconds :-)


4 posted on 04/18/2005 7:24:41 AM PDT by Condor51 (Leftists are moral and intellectual parasites - Standing Wolf)
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To: aculeus

and here in a couple days we will find out that even these fears are without merit.

it does need to be watched however....


5 posted on 04/18/2005 7:24:58 AM PDT by MikefromOhio (Question of the week: Can you think country music sucks and still be a Conservative?)
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To: aculeus

Great. Just about the time I retire, too...


6 posted on 04/18/2005 7:27:06 AM PDT by Junior (“Even if you are one-in-a-million, there are still 6,000 others just like you.”)
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To: aculeus
we're ummm, uhh...What's the word I'm looking for? We're... We're.....

DOOMED!!!

7 posted on 04/18/2005 7:28:17 AM PDT by SlowBoat407 (When we are tolerant, we should be careful to note whether it stems from convenience or conviction.)
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To: aculeus

Bush must have thought this up right after he planed the tsunami.


8 posted on 04/18/2005 7:28:20 AM PDT by Forrestfire ("To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." Theodore Roosevelt)
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To: aculeus

So this means we don't need to fix Social Security?


9 posted on 04/18/2005 7:29:18 AM PDT by Kay Syrah (--)
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To: aculeus

Should be quite a show looking out of my nursing home window.


10 posted on 04/18/2005 7:30:41 AM PDT by afnamvet (31st Fighter Wing Tuy Hoa AB RVN 68-69 "Return With Honor")
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To: aculeus
How does the asteroid lose enough kinetic energy to be captured by Earth's gravitational field? Does it encounter our atmosphere? Would that really slow it down enough?

This sounds far-fetched, but I'm no rocket scientist.

(steely)

11 posted on 04/18/2005 7:31:07 AM PDT by Steely Tom (Fortunately, the Bill of Rights doesn't include the word 'is'.)
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To: Kay Syrah

Chicken Little is getting over on his future SS contributions

I love this site

RW


12 posted on 04/18/2005 7:32:06 AM PDT by reluctantwarrior (Strength and Honor, just call me Buzzkill for short......)
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To: aculeus

Ok Cubs fans you've only got 29 more years left to win a World Series.


13 posted on 04/18/2005 7:32:32 AM PDT by dfwgator (Minutemen: Just doing the jobs that American politicians won't do.)
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To: aculeus

Yeah - put a radio beacon on the darned thing, just in case it gets lost!


14 posted on 04/18/2005 7:32:53 AM PDT by Ken522
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To: aculeus

women and children hit hardest


15 posted on 04/18/2005 7:34:18 AM PDT by SmithL (Proud Submariner)
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To: aculeus
A HUGE asteroid which is on a course to miss the Earth by a whisker in 2029.... [snip] ...1,000ft-wide asteroid

This is hardly a huge asteroid. Big enough to reach the ground and do significant local damage, but not enough to panic about.

16 posted on 04/18/2005 7:34:58 AM PDT by The_Victor (Doh!... stupid tagline)
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To: SlowBoat407

Looks like I'll need burn my personal leave before 2034 :}


17 posted on 04/18/2005 7:34:59 AM PDT by Lawdoc (Send up Bruce Willis to handle this!)
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To: aculeus

Write your congressman and demand more restrictive gravity control laws NOW!


18 posted on 04/18/2005 7:35:23 AM PDT by George Smiley (This tagline deliberately targeted journalists.)
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To: aculeus

Bah, who cares. We can get Bruce Willis and his wacky deep-well drilling team to go take care of it. This time I hope they leave Aflek on the thing to set off the nuke, though.


19 posted on 04/18/2005 7:36:01 AM PDT by L98Fiero
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To: Steely Tom

It won't get captured, but if it passes close enough, earth's gravity well could change its course slightly. The final effect of that course change cannot be predicted until we know exactly how close it passes.


20 posted on 04/18/2005 7:36:42 AM PDT by SlowBoat407 (When we are tolerant, we should be careful to note whether it stems from convenience or conviction.)
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To: aculeus

That seals it, no need to change social security, the earth will be destroyed anyway!


21 posted on 04/18/2005 7:37:06 AM PDT by CSM
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To: aculeus

April 13, 2029?

Damn, that'll be my 42nd birthday!


22 posted on 04/18/2005 7:37:28 AM PDT by Chef Dajuan (Its a pork fat thing!)
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To: Chef Dajuan

Gravity is obviously too dangerous. It should be banned.


23 posted on 04/18/2005 7:39:01 AM PDT by boofus
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To: aculeus

We must elect Hillary Clinton as President.... she will save us.


24 posted on 04/18/2005 7:39:52 AM PDT by The Great RJ
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To: aculeus
Earth’s gravity may lure deadly asteroid

. . . . . . then again, it may not.






Tune in next week. (dramatic music)

Same Bat time . . . . . . same Bat station

. . . . . .(more dramatic music and fade)
25 posted on 04/18/2005 7:40:07 AM PDT by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
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To: aculeus

The headline reminds me of SUV headlines. Maybe we can lure the asteroid away from us bu providing an incentive. If we only knew what asteroids liked best. Female asteroid?


26 posted on 04/18/2005 7:40:16 AM PDT by Raycpa
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To: Steely Tom

>How does the asteroid lose enough kinetic energy to be captured by Earth's gravitational field?

The asteroid is currently in *solar* orbit. A near encounter with Earth would slightly deflect the asteroids orbit, by gravitationally tugging it to one side. It would still be in a solar orbit, just a slightly different one. However, the change in orbit cannot be accurately calculated until we know *exactly* how close it will pass by the Earth/Moon system (the moon will *also* tug slightly on the asteroid).

And with timescales of 30+ years, you also really need to factor in Jupiters gravitational effect as well.

Orbital mechanics is based on some pretty simple equations... when you only have two bodies. But in this circumstance, there are at least 5 that need to be accounted for. Extremely complex, requiring lots of computer power and *very* precise observations.


27 posted on 04/18/2005 7:40:52 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
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To: SlowBoat407
It won't get captured, but if it passes close enough, earth's gravity well could change its course slightly. The final effect of that course change cannot be predicted until we know exactly how close it passes.

Yeah, OK, but it will be a "lossless" encounter, won't it? Maybe not.

Are they concerned that it will exchange momentum with the earth in a way that slows it down (as opposed to speeding it up as happens when we use Jupiter's gravitational field to shoot satellites out to Neptune, etc.)?

(steely)

28 posted on 04/18/2005 7:40:56 AM PDT by Steely Tom (Fortunately, the Bill of Rights doesn't include the word 'is'.)
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To: dfwgator
We're DOOMED!!

Thats what the dinosaurs said.

29 posted on 04/18/2005 7:41:00 AM PDT by Nonstatist
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To: aculeus
As a safety precaution, some experts are calling for 2004 MN4 to be “tagged” with a transponder that would constantly radio its position. Scientists hope that this would provide enough warning to allow emergency action if necessary, possibly by diverting the object away from the Earth.Other instruments on the probe could provide information about its composition.

Aha! They just want an excuse to use tax dollars to "tag it for safety", oh, and by the way, study the composition.

30 posted on 04/18/2005 7:44:35 AM PDT by trebb ("I am the way... no one comes to the Father, but by me..." - Jesus in John 14:6 (RSV))
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To: Elsie; AndrewC; jennyp; lockeliberty; RadioAstronomer; LiteKeeper; Fester Chugabrew; ...

Why hasn't Jupiter gobbled this one up yet?

Billions of years, HAH!


31 posted on 04/18/2005 7:44:48 AM PDT by bondserv (Alignment is critical! †)
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To: orionblamblam

Agreed. A many-body problem has no analytic solution - it requires zillions of calcs to find a best solution.

But by 2029, your wristwatch will be able to do those calcs.


32 posted on 04/18/2005 7:45:55 AM PDT by agere_contra
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To: CSM

This asteroid would be a local disaster if it hit, not a global one; the articles on it generally note this but it's interesting that people really don't seem to notice.


33 posted on 04/18/2005 7:47:17 AM PDT by Strategerist
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To: aculeus

34 posted on 04/18/2005 7:47:52 AM PDT by add925 (The Left = Xenophobes in Denial)
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To: aculeus

It's only 1000 ft across? Ummmm, maybe I'm missing something here but if it's coming so close, why are they going to tag it with a radio transmitter and not just blow the thing apart, thereby nullifying any risk at all?


35 posted on 04/18/2005 7:49:19 AM PDT by Romish_Papist (Canonize Pope John Paul the Great as patron Saint of the unborn.)
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To: agere_contra

> But by 2029, your wristwatch will be able to do those calcs.

Wristwatch? No, those will no longer exist. The brain-chip will simply display a heads-up display directly onto your retina (giving you the time in all time zones, along with your exact location), do your taxes, calculate orbital trajectories two millenia out, and project the fourteen most-likely-successful pick-up lines to the four-breasted genetically modified hottie in the corner.

Of course, if there's a "President Hillary" between now and then, that chip will *broadcast* your position, will modify your behavior, make you feel happy whenever Madame President appears (which will be every ten minutes) and will be mandatory.


36 posted on 04/18/2005 7:50:18 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
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To: dfwgator

We're not doomed. We need to catch it. Who ever catches it will be rich I tell you. RICH!


37 posted on 04/18/2005 7:50:23 AM PDT by Helotes
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To: bondserv

> Why hasn't Jupiter gobbled this one up yet?

Because the asteroids orbit goes nowhere near Jupiter.


38 posted on 04/18/2005 7:51:03 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
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To: Condor51
It was the bold typing that did it.
39 posted on 04/18/2005 7:51:43 AM PDT by MacDorcha (Where Rush dares not tread, there are the Freepers!)
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To: Nonstatist

Well it could change earth orbit and put us closer to the sun and cause globel warming.


40 posted on 04/18/2005 7:51:56 AM PDT by Judge Roy
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To: Steely Tom
It would not get captured. They are talking about the pass near are grav field would nudge it's orbit just a bit. Since we can't predict WHERE it's new orbit will take it there is a chance it will intersect the earth the next time around. With something that irregular we don't really know it's mass well enough to calculate what the new orbit will look like. Putting a transponder on it would let us calculate it's current orbit more accurately and let us figure it's new orbit out much faster.
41 posted on 04/18/2005 7:53:05 AM PDT by TalonDJ
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To: aculeus

What difference does it make? We are all suppose to have died from the Avian Flu before then.


42 posted on 04/18/2005 7:53:22 AM PDT by foolscap
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To: aculeus
OK, maybe I don't know enough science to figure this one out, but surely somebody here does: If we can make the effort to "tag" it, how much harder would it be to put something on it that would blow it to bits, when it goes away from Earth? Yes, the pieces would still have the same orbital pattern, more or less, but when they would hit the Earth, they might be small enough to burn up harmlessly.

If I've got a bad idea, perhaps someone knowledgeable could explain why.

43 posted on 04/18/2005 7:53:30 AM PDT by hunter112 (Total victory, both in the USA and the Middle East!)
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To: boofus

When gravity is outlawed, only.................


44 posted on 04/18/2005 7:53:36 AM PDT by Red Badger (Entrepreneurs find a need and fill it. Politicians create a need and fill it........)
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To: aculeus

"It might put 2004 MN4 on course for a collision in 2034..."

I'll be 88. Now I have something to look forward too.


45 posted on 04/18/2005 7:53:49 AM PDT by DugwayDuke
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To: TattooedUSAFConservative

> why are they going to tag it with a radio transmitter and not just blow the thing apart, thereby nullifying any risk at all?

Because we're not real clear even yet on how to blow apart a 1000-foot asteroid of unknown composition. And without knowing exactly what it's trajectory is, blowing into pieces might well take a 1000-foot asteroid that was going to miss Earth and turn it into several 400-foot asteroids that WILL hit Earth.


46 posted on 04/18/2005 7:53:58 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
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To: bondserv

Thanks for the ping!


47 posted on 04/18/2005 7:54:22 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: orionblamblam
> Why hasn't Jupiter gobbled this one up yet? Because the asteroids orbit goes nowhere near Jupiter.

So Jupiter hasn't been the solar system vacuum for billions of years?

Those comets and asteroids have been awfully plentiful on our short life spans. Shumaker-Levy would have been life ending if it were to have hit earth. In our very lifetimes.

48 posted on 04/18/2005 7:55:42 AM PDT by bondserv (Alignment is critical! †)
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To: agere_contra
But by 2029, your wristwatch will be able to do those calcs.

Yeah, just in time... to countdown to the impact!
49 posted on 04/18/2005 7:55:43 AM PDT by SpinnerWebb (Would you like an apple pie with that?)
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To: All
If you're interested in the effects of an impact like this, try this "Impact Calculator".

http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/

50 posted on 04/18/2005 7:55:59 AM PDT by The_Victor (Doh!... stupid tagline)
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