Skip to comments.Earth’s gravity may lure deadly asteroid
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 asteroids 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 dont know what that asteroid is made of and that might influence the way its affected by the Earths 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 dont 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 asteroids 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. Thats 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 well 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.
ya beat me by 4 seconds :-)
and here in a couple days we will find out that even these fears are without merit.
it does need to be watched however....
Great. Just about the time I retire, too...
Bush must have thought this up right after he planed the tsunami.
So this means we don't need to fix Social Security?
Should be quite a show looking out of my nursing home window.
This sounds far-fetched, but I'm no rocket scientist.
Chicken Little is getting over on his future SS contributions
I love this site
Ok Cubs fans you've only got 29 more years left to win a World Series.
Yeah - put a radio beacon on the darned thing, just in case it gets lost!
women and children hit hardest
This is hardly a huge asteroid. Big enough to reach the ground and do significant local damage, but not enough to panic about.
Looks like I'll need burn my personal leave before 2034 :}
Write your congressman and demand more restrictive gravity control laws NOW!
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.
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.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.