Armageddon – Maybe…….

The asteroid Apophis, were it to hit the Earth in 2036, would explode with the force of more than half the weapons in the United States nuclear arsenal. That would be bad. True to form, though, the old Cold War enemies are in disagreement about the dangers.

Here at the Daily Maverick we seem to have developed a fascination with the End of the World. Perhaps we doth protest too much, but we’d just like to point out that it’s not because we’re naturally apocalyptic. Our apparent propensity to run doomsday stories, if you’ll indulge us, is simply because our editor knows a good news lead when he sees one. His instincts have been proven correct by the retweets and comments we get on such articles, by the fact that the writer of this piece was personally warned to start repenting by a sect that’s pegged judgment day as May 21st, 2011, and by the fact that you’re still with us at the tail-end of this 130-word opening paragraph.

From all the doomsday predictions we’ve covered thus far, though – including the abovementioned 2011/05/21 sect, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, which argues for 2012/12/21, and the History Channel, which argues for just about any date that hasn’t yet passed into history (which makes you wonder about the channel’s name) – the one that seems the most statistically probable to us is 2036/04/13.

That’s when the asteroid Apophis, a 300-metre-diameter chunk of rock, terribly inconveniently named after the Egyptian god of “uncreation”, has a one-in-four-million chance of hitting Earth.

Wait! Don’t click out yet! The reason we’re running this story is that Apophis initially had a 2.7 percent chance of hitting Earth, on April 13th 2029. Using updated information, though, NASA scientists recently recalculated the path of the large asteroid, and decided that the refined data indicated a much-reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with our planet on the same date in 2036.

Numerologists, cult members and History Channel staffers will have noticed by now that the gap between these two dates is seven years, a very significant number (days of the week, oceans on Earth, continents on Earth, days it took God to create the world including Her rest-day, etc). We encourage you to reach your own conclusions on that score, really we do. As logical-positivist newsmen, what’s important to us is that on April 13th 2029 we’re still going to see a record-setting close encounter with a lethal asteroid – Apophis, say the updated NASA stats, is then going to approach within 18,300 miles of our planet – and that on April 13th 2036 many of us might perish in a cataclysmic collision – the chances, remote as they may be, are nevertheless slightly greater than you being struck by lightning, and much greater than a monkey at a keyboard typing out the complete works of Nostradamus. Or was it Shakespeare?

The Russians, who by default don’t believe in NASA’s stats, aren’t about to take any undue risks. * The Russian Federal Space Agency is considering the funding of a project to deflect the 880-megaton asteroid, and aside from one small problem, there’s every reason to take them seriously. Anatoly Perminov, the agency’s head, held a news conference in late December 2009 in which he stated that the asteroid “will surely collide with the Earth in the 2030s,” and that he’d heard this information from a scientist.

“We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would … prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people.”

The one small problem? Perminov refused to name his lone scientist. Ah, well.


Apophis Course on Video

Any number of undiscovered near-Earth objects could one day careen into the Earth, and there is a lot of talk here at the American Geophysical Union meeting about tracking them. So far, though, only one discovered object has seemed even mildly likely to hit our planet.

That asteroid is Apophis, a 900-foot asteroid. Calculations released on Christmas Eve 2004 appeared to show that there was a greater than 2 percent chance the asteroid would hit the Earth in 2029. The asteroid appeared ready to give the Earth its closest shave since astronomers began looking for such things. It was judged a 4 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale for a short time, the highest rating any near-Earth object has received.

As it turned out, more precise observations brought the risk of collision down to just 1 in 250,000, but the scare sparked greater interest and study in the fields of asteroid detection and defense.

Even though the asteroid doesn’t look like it’s going to hit Earth, on April 13, 2029, it will come closer to Earth than any other near-Earth object that we know of. It will pass just 18,300 miles above the planet’s surface.

Here, we see an exclusive animation created by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of what that approach will look like from the perspective of the asteroid. And whoo boy, does it seem close.


Russia wants to destroy Apophis before 2035

Russia’s space chief said Wednesday his agency will consider sending a spacecraft to a large asteroid to knock it off its path and prevent a possible collision with Earth.

Anatoly Perminov said the space agency will hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis, telling Golos Rossii radio that it would invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project once it is finalized.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated the chances of it smashing into Earth in its first flyby in 2029 were as high as 1-in-37.

Further studies ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

In October, NASA lowered the odds that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 from a 1-in-45,000 as earlier thought to a 1-in-250,000 chance after researchers recalculated the asteroid’s path. It said another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.

Scientists have long theorized about asteroid deflection strategies. Some have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid to gradually change its trajectory. Others suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its momentum, or using nuclear weapons to hit it.

Without mentioning NASA findings, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. “I don’t remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032,” Perminov said.

He wouldn’t disclose any details of the project, saying they still need to be worked out. But he said the mission wouldn’t require any nuclear explosions.

Hollywood action films “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon,” have featured space missions scrambling to avoid catastrophic collisions. In both movies space crews use nuclear bombs in an attempt to prevent collisions.

“Calculations show that it’s possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision without destroying it (the asteroid) and without detonating any nuclear charges,” Perminov said. “The threat of collision can be averted.”

“People’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,” he added.

Boris Shustov, the director of the Institute of Astronomy under the Russian Academy of Sciences, hailed Perminov’s statement as a signal that officials had come to recognize the danger posed by asteroids.

“Apophis is just a symbolic example, there are many other dangerous objects we know little about,” he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.

“We will soon hold a closed meeting of our collegium, the science-technical council to look at what can be done” to prevent the asteroid Apophis from slamming into the planet in 2036, Anatoly Perminov told Voice of Russia radio.

“We are talking about people’s lives,” Perminov was quoted by news agencies as telling the radio station.

“Better to spend a few hundred million dollars to create a system for preventing a collision than to wait until it happens and hundreds of thousands of people are killed,” he said.

The Apophis asteroid measures approximately 350m in diameter and RIA Novosti news agency said that if it were to hit Earth when it passes nearby in 2036 it would create a new desert the size of France.

Perminov said a serious plan to prevent such a catastrophe would probably be an international project involving Russian, European, US and Chinese space experts.

Interfax quoted him as saying that one option would be to build a new “space apparatus” designed solely for the purpose of diverting Apophis from a collision course with Earth safely.

“There won’t be any nuclear explosions,” Perminov said. “Everything will be done according to the laws of physics. We will examine all of this.”

In a statement dated from October and posted on its website, the US space agency NASA said new calculations on the path of Apophis indicated “a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036.”

“Updated computational techniques and newly available data indicate the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a-million,” NASA said.

RIA Novosti said the asteroid was expected to pass within 30,000 kilometres (18,600 miles) of Earth in 2029 — closer than some geo-stationary satellites — and could shift course to hit Earth seven years years after that.


Asteroid 99942 aka Apophis

Asteroid 99942 aka Apophis [1] is on an orbit about the sun that takes it close to the earth twice in 7 years. It will pass the earth at a distance of about 37000 km on 13. April 2029 (closer than some earth satellites). Depending on the exact trajectory during this passage, earth’s gravitational pull may set it up for an impact in 2036. Apophis is about 300 m in diameter, so an impact at about 12.6 km/s would be a major disaster rivaling the Krakatoa explosion of 1883. Apophis will hit the earth in 2036 only if it passes through a roughly 600-meter [2] wide region in space close to the earth on 2029/4/13. A deflection manouver to make it miss the keyhole would be much easier than one to make it miss the entire earth. Up to about 2026, a velocity change of 1 micron per second [2] is sufficient to deflect Apophis from a trajectory that would go through the center of the keyhole to one that makes it miss. After passage through the keyhole (which is not at all certain, yet), a deflection will need to change the velocity by up to about 1 cm/s.

The planetary society has initiated a competition for ideas to track the orbit of Apophis accurately enough to know whether or not Apophis will pass through the keyhole in 2029. This information should be available by 2017, so that a deflection mission can be planned and executed by 2026. This would leave 3 years for a velocity change to result in an accumulation of positional deviation, and missing the keyhole. Most likely the tracking mission will involve placement of a radio beacon or optical reflector.
I have developed a proposal for such a tracking mission, and will make details available on this web site after the competition is concluded. The proposal focuses mostly on the radio science and technology for the beacon, but part of the effort was also to calculate an optimal transfer trajectory for the spacecraft carrying the beacon to fly from Earth to Apophis. For this, I wrote a little program to scan all transfer trajectories with given departure and arrival times and locations (Earth for departure and Apophis for arrival). For lack of time, and given the emphasis on the radio-science aspect, the program was a kludge, and could do only planar geometries (i.e., ignoring the orbital inclinations). It is listed here, together with a brief documentation.
Meanwhile, I have re-written the program with several improvements, The new version can do three-dimensional calculations, and is written with future upgrades in mind, such as optimization with one or more mid-course rocket burns. I will make this program available under the Gnu Public License (GPL), meaning anyone is free to use and modify it under the condition that the modified version (or the original) is also made available under the GPL. An early version of the program is listed here. It is written in perl (as was the old program), but at some point I will convert it to C++.

[1] NASA, Near Earth Object Program
[2] R. Schweickart, C. Chapman, D. Durda, P. Hut, B. Bottke, D. Nesvorny, Threat Characterization: Trajectory Dynamics, wpdynamics.pdf

Roswell – The Conspiracy Theory

UFO watchers believe that the US military discovered an alien craft and extraterrestrial bodies, and concealed the find from the American public.
Conspiracy theorists say the spaceship gave priceless intelligence to the US on alien technology, which could have proved vital in the burgeoning Cold War against Russia.
The cover-up also allowed the government to carry out an autopsy on the dead space travellers, and gain an insight into the physiology of these extraterrestrial beings.
The conspiracy theory started when Major Marcel broke his silence after retiring from the armed forces in the late 1970s.
In 1978 he described the bizarre markings, the strange metals and the unusual make-up of the materials he found at the Roswell crash site to UFO investigator Stanton T Friedman. When he repeated his evidence about the strange hieroglyphics and super-strong metallic shell of the craft to the National Enquirer in 1980, the conspiracy theory began to grow.
Dozens of others came forward, including William Haut, the press officer who sparked the initial interest in the story. He revealed that he was asked to take part in a plan to divert attention away from the crash site.
In a sworn affidavit in 2002 he claimed that he was shown the craft recovered from the ranch in a hangar at Roswell Air Base. Haut described the spaceship as a 15-foot-long egg-shaped construction made of a paper-thin, incredibly strong metal with no windows or landing gear. He also claims to have seen two bodies in the hanger with abnormally large heads.
Theorists also point to the evidence of “Mac” Brazel, foreman of the Foster Ranch where the craft was discovered, who gave interviews to the Roswell Daily Record and Associated Press on 8 July 1947, in which he dismissed the military’s official story.
Citing several other weather balloons he had recovered on the ranch, he said: “I am sure what I found was not any weather balloon.”
A string of ex-army staff from both Fort Worth and Roswell came forward in the 1990s to reveal their own encounters with UFOs and aliens.
Almost to a man, they described small, lightweight metallic crafts, and thin, human-like aliens with enlarged heads and eyes.

Roswell – The Official Story

The US government’s official version of the Roswell find is simple and unequivocal. A weather balloon crashed in the desert and was recovered by military personal after a local rancher reported a wreckage on his land.
Press officer Walter Haut’s statement on July 8 that a flying disc had been recovered on the Foster ranch north of Roswell was quickly dismissed by General Roger Ramey, who held a press conference the next day to put forward the weather balloon explanation. Parts of the balloon were even paraded in front of an expectant collection of reporters.
Major Jesse Marcel, who was in charge of security for the military’s nuclear test sites across the US and the Pacific, backed up this theory at the time due to the sensitive nature of his position within the armed forces.

Both Marcel and Haut would later claim that the recovered object was an alien spaceship, and that the weather balloon had been substituted for the craft after it was taken to Fort Worth for further testing.

In the early 1990s, when interest in the Roswell incident was at its peak, the air force revealed that it had been carrying out tests in 1947 on a high-altitude balloon as part of Project Mogul, in an attempt to detect Russian nuclear tests.

Roswell Conspiracy Part 1

On 7 July 1947 a rancher in New Mexico reported the discovery of a strange flying saucer that had crash landed in the desert 40 miles north of the small Air Force town of Roswell.
With its strange markings and unusual design, the find soon sparked a furious debate about where the bizarre craft could have come from.
The summer of 1947 had seen dozens of UFO sightings over Roswell.
Locals reported blinking lights, hovering discs and oddly-shaped aircraft in the clear night skies.
So when the Air Force issued a press release saying that a flying disc had been found, the rumour mill went into overdrive.
To those convinced that we are not alone in the universe, Roswell was the defining moment that saw years of UFO sightings and alien encounters backed up with cold, hard evidence.
But the UFO theory was quickly dispelled by military officials, who claimed the object they had recovered was a humble weather balloon, and for more than 30 years the eyes of the world turned away from the New Mexico desert.
Then, in 1980, retired Major Jesse Marcel, who had been involved in the recovery of the craft, told the National Enquirer that the military had covered-up the discovery of an alien spaceship at Roswell.
Since that interview the incident has gained legendary status in the conspiracy community,
For millions across the globe, it is the strongest proof yet that the US government has concealed the existence of aliens for more than 60 years. The American military continues to refute the claims of UFO enthusiasts, and intelligence chiefs have stuck to their “weather balloon” story since 1947.
So have we all been duped by a government cover-up to convince the public that little green men and flying saucers are make believe, or is Roswell just another UFO hoax?

What to look forward to in 2036

The time – April 13, 2036…. The place – Earth. Apophis is out there and it might just be on a collision course with our planet!

The time – April 13, 2036…. The place – Earth. Apophis is out there and it might just be on a collision course with our planet! The asteroid will come very close to the Earth in 2029, but miss. That close encounter will trigger a collision in 2036. According to this video there´s noo need to make any plans past 2036!

Russian Scientists to deflect Apophis

Russian scientists have said that they intend to interfere with the trajectory of Apophis asteroid which could hit Earth in 2036.

Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said that “it will hold a meeting to discuss the issue.”

And he suggested that “The calculations show that a spacecraft could deflect the object of his course. This is not to destroy Apophis, but out of its path. ”

Perminov said that “Any plan for such work would be done by an international collaboration between Russia, the European Union, United States, China and Japan.”

But he added that “there is no room for panic, a crash would put at stake the lives of many people and it is better to pay several hundred million dollars and create a system to avoid a collision, than to wait passively “.

The asteroid Apophis has a diameter of 270 feet, is three times larger than the Tunguska meteorite, which in 1908 destroyed 2 000 hectares in Siberia.

The asteroid that is directed toward the Sun, will pass close by Earth at a distance of 30 thousand kilometers, and when it returns in 2036 could possibly hit our planet.

In the U.S. NASA said that “its scientists had significantly reduced the chance that Apophis would impact with the earth’s surface” and that “the odds of an impact in 2036 are 1 in 45 thousand.”