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back to article NASA tweaks killer asteroid's trajectory of death

NASA has recalculated the trajectory of asteroid Apophis and concluded that Bruce Willis can stand down from a state of doom-body-busting readiness. Apophis - agreeably described by the agency as "approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields"* - has got a lot of press since its discovery in 2004, when it was …

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WTF?

Lies, damned lies etc. etc.

"from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million"

So, 1 in 250,000 then? Of course, four-in-a-million does sound more remote. Very clever.

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18300

It may be harmless to us fleshy ground-dwellers, but it may still make a mess of our geostationary satellites, of which there are a fair few at 22300 miles.

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Apophis?

Apophis?

I'm not sure which I'm more terrified by. The prospect of a huge slab of rock hitting the Earth, or the statistical probability that aforementioned slab of rock is more likely to have been named after a character from Stargate SG1 than after the figure from Egyptian mythology of the same name.

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Alert

National Lottery

***"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."***

So I'll still be around 50 times *more* likely to be squished by Apophis than winning the UK National Lottery jackpot the day before.

Winning the lottery, or dying in flaming asteroid induced Armageddon. "It could be you".

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Record setting?

"record-setting - but harmless - close approach to Earth"

It's not really record-setting if you buy the whole dinosaurs-wiped-out-by-asteroid-strike theory, is it?

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Happy

Thundarr

If you remember your Saturday morning cartoons, the cause of problems for Thundarr the Barbarian's environment (and his sun sword at least a decade before George Lucas's Light Saber) was an asteroid passing close enough to change the earth's magnetic poles and strip a large part of our atmosphere along with it. (I don't remember if it hit or moved the moon as well).

I bet George stole someone's idea for the Light Saber......

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If they haven't already

You wait 'till they name one Anubis. SG-1 fans will agree, on that day we're screwed.

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Flame

Spooky

I am 1/2 way through re-reading "Lucifer's Hammer".

The blurb on the back reads :-

The chances it would hit were one in a million.

Then one in a thousand.

Then one in a hundred. And then............

I, for one, will be stocking up on freeze dried foods, survival equipment and a life raft!!!!

That's no flame!! That's Apophos entering the atmosphere!!!

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FAIL

ahem

"football fields" = a unit of area

350m = in units of length

... and presumably the size of the asteroid is actually best expressed as either a volume or a mass.

Confused?

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J 3
Headmaster

Er...

When I read the title I thought "wow, they changed the asteroid's trajectory, how come I haven't heard of such an interesting mission?", but then it was just a much more mundane *recalculation* of what the trajectory might be. :-P

Anyway, I eagerly await that pass, and I hope it will pass over a region from where I can see it. That will be something cool to watch, even if just a small dot.

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Grenade

Bruce Willis

It's a good thing Bruce Willis can stand down. He'll be 74 for the 2029 pass, and 81 for the 2036 pass. Surely by then we could find a replacement for saving the world, or at least clone him. He's saved the world countless times already. Surely he deserves to retire at some point.

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Well that's it then

We're Dooooooomed

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@Andy Burgess

We have no record of the dinosaur one if it even happened at all, so therefore it can't have set any records.

But this one will be recorded so would be record setting.

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Coat

Four-in-a-million?

Phew, that's ok then.

Of course if it was only one-in-a-million we'd be screwed because we all know that one-in-a-million chances turn up nine times out of ten...

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WTF?

How can dr. Mabuse predict this ?

"it is expected that the 2068 encounter will diminish in probability as more information about Apophis is acquired".

I very well understand how one can evaluate probabilities of an encounter, but how they can state this probability *will* diminish when more data is available is beyhond me.

Why more data wouldn't raise dramatically this probability, even to 1 ? What's the probability of this ?

I really don't feel secure anymore, all of a sudden.

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Alien

Oh please send Bruce Willis anyway...?

Then he can stop making bad films.

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Happy

If it's coming that close

might a little mission to hop on and do a cheap tour of various bits of the solar system be possible?

There is som prep time available and I imagine NASA, ESA, JAXA or someone *could* put something together with enough delta V to handle the RV and docking.

Just a thought .

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Anonymous Coward

woosh !

So if we only consider the Earth's orbital speed to keep things simple, and assume the paths do actually cross, that 2029 miss distance corresponds to just over 15 minutes...

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April 13th?

That's my birthday! It's certainly would have been a memorable one...

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@RTNavy

The lore of the story was that it shot the gap and went between them. The Moon was supposedly cracked by the gravitational disturbance of the near-miss (and why the deuce do I still remember this stuff?).

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Welcome

"one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million"

What does that mean exactly? To me either says that they can't predict it's orbit accurately as far ahead an 2029 or 2036.

It's just as valid to say 50/50 isn't it? It either hits us or it doesn't. Inside geosynchronous strikes me as too close.

I for one welcome our new death-dealing ancient Egyptian overlord.

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@RTNavy

Not the first time science has got it wrong. In the third Doctor story "Doctor Who and the Silurians", the Silurians reckoned a newly sighted asteroid was going to rip the Earth's atmosphere off ,and built underground hibernation shelters that would revive them once the asteroid had gone. Only it didn't (it became the moon), and the mechanism never triggered, so they slept a few million years more than planned, emerging in 1970 and causing havoc in rural Derbyshire, although it's faintly surprising that anyone in the county would find anything unusual in people with scales, bug eyes and webbed fingers.

Evidently some of the dodgier Silurian developers (presumably those who failed to account for the moon not leaving orbit) survived annihilation and went on to lead a variety of IT projects under Labour, with the rest going to work for Microsoft's Mac Business unit.

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Probability of fatuous statements?

> Chesley said: "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."

Nobody has yet said that, in the end, the probability of an Earth encounter is

either 1

or 0.

not some tiny decimal number.

The relative size of two tiny decimal numbers is entirely irrelevant, and meaningless.

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Boffin

Information

"it is expected that the 2068 encounter will diminish in probability as more information about Apophis is acquired"

Such as... whether or not it hits in 2036?

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Probability and @ Richard 81

'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'

When I was at school (in the early Mesozoic), I was taught that probabilities were always to be expressed as fractions.

'You wait 'till they name one Anubis.'

You've already been screwed, it's out there in the Main Asteroid Belt:

http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=1912+Anubis

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Dead Vulture

"approximately the size of two-and-a-half football fields"

What's that in El Reg SI units?

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Boffin

The end is not nigh.

18300, Apophis is not expected to be in the plane of the equator when it passes through geostationary altitude. Even if this freak event were to happen, only one satellite could reside at the point of intersection and it could easily take avoiding action well in advance. However, I predict there will no shortage of portents of doom at the time.

We might actually deliberately put something in its way to study the composition of the debris from the collision.

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Boffin

Re: Thundarr

If I remember correctly, the moon was split in two and ended up looking much like it did in the less than wonderful, but not quite terrible remake of The Time Machine (2002).

There is a screenshot of the moon here: http://www.renegadebs.com/archives/2006_06_01_archive.html

Best picture of Thundarr's moon I could find in 10 minutes: http://fc02.deviantart.com/fs48/f/2009/156/b/6/thundarr_the_barbarian_by_chachaman.jpg

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@RIchard 81

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1912_Anubis

:P

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Go

Bugger

So.. you think they'd actually tell us if an Earth pile driving asteroid was going to hit? That's interesting... no really it is. Because it leads me to my next question.

If you truly do believe we'd be promptly informed by the powers that be, if an asteroid was going to destroy the world (instead of saying that it'll miss by miles and would all those amateur astronomers that see it coming relax rather than sending everyone into a panic) .. well would each of you lend me a thousand quid till next week? I'll pay it back, honest.

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Alert

Good candidate for...

capture to earth orbit? Depending on composition could be a useful source of raw materials for orbital industries and save us (humankind) the cost and energy (and pollution) of boosting building materials into orbit. Or how about a platform for an orbital elevator.

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Black Helicopters

They have it wrong

The likely hood of the earth being hit by an asteroid is 100% according to records of past strikes we are well overdure for a strike.

18,300 miles is NOT a safe distance for an object of that size to pass us without risk of a strike, Random events such as solar activity and low density dust belts can easily affect Apophis and result in a strike.

Even if it does not hit first time round, the effect of the earths and moons gravity WILL alter the orbital path of Apophis and most likely cause it to hit second time round in 2036.

I dont understand how they can say they can predict the trajectory of this object, its exact size, mass, shape and density are all unknown!

There is alot of stuff in that empty place we call space, just look at the giant belt found around Saturn!

Im off to start digging my Shelter!

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Celestial snooker?

OK, I'll hit it off the red (mars) onto the black (moon) and pocket the blue (earth)....

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Alien

18,300 eh

Just close enough for the aliens to jump off

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Anonymous Coward

The once was a title and his name was Osama

""football fields" = a unit of area

350m = in units of length

... and presumably the size of the asteroid is actually best expressed as either a volume or a mass.

Confused?"

No its perfectly simple the asteroid has the same mass as a 1 unit wide and 350 meters long football field debt is set from surface to earth center but not a constant as the earth is as we all know banana shaped.

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@AC Pedants who can't understand probabilities...

It's not 50/50 on the basis that there are only two outcomes - one outcome is vastly more likely than the other. The reason for not being able to predict exactly where it will be when it crosses the Earth's path is that the observations we've made so far may contain errors (imperfect sightings, basically) and by multiplying up the estimated error for each one - and the effect it'll have on the path plotted - you get an estimate of how likely either outcome is. The more sightings you make, the less chance of cocking up and having your mistake confirmed with a loud bang and a smoking crater. That's why the new calculations are allowing the odds to move out closer to p=1

The argument that the odds are 50/50 would imply that crossing the road should result in you dying every other time you put the kettle on (I mean, hey, you either die or you don't die, so by your logic it's a 50% shot). If you really persist with this line of thinking, can I play you at poker?

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P 8
Alien

@Paul Kinsler

"football fields" = a unit of area

350m = in units of length

... and presumably the size of the asteroid is actually best expressed as either a volume or a mass.

See this is where you've got all confused, it's not actually a 3d asteroid but indeed a 2d one from Clive Sinclairs Spectrum (I believe the 128k+ variety), as such the calculations given are correct.

Also who bloody taught these scientists maths?! I was taught to always scale down, 4 in a million..............1 in 250,000.........prats

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Alert

Thank god it's only 4 in a million....

Because everyone knows one in a million things happen nine times out of ten. I'd be worried if it was standing on one leg, blindfolded and trying to hit the earth in the voonerables. Then it'd probably be a one in a million shot, and I'm not sure we've got a handy cess-pit to leap into when it comes along belching fire....

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Grenade

Chuck Norris vs Bruce Willis

Shurely shome mishtake - diverting asteriods and saving the earth is a job for Chuck Norris, not baldy Willis?

Grenade...because of the two, Willis would need it most...Chuck Norris would only glare at it for 3 seconds and it would be completely destroyed.

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Boffin

RE: National Lottery

"So I'll still be around 50 times *more* likely to be squished by Apophis than winning the UK National Lottery jackpot the day before."

A common mistake regarding odds. The odds of *SOMEONE* winning the lottery are quite high, probably close to 2:1. The odds of *SOMEONE* being hit by Apophis are still 1000000:4 (or 250000:1 as we normal maths bods prefer).

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Joke

@ Andy Burgess

I don't believe the dinosaurs kept records of celestial obejcts ...

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Unhappy

It will hit

because that's my 65th Birthday and my bad luck is supreme.

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Record? Got record

Chicxulub is all the record I need to not want to be hit by anything this size, dino-killer or not. This baby is seriously going to upset my beer no matter where it comes down, and that's just Not Done. "Lucifers Hammer" might not be the best reference. Try "Footfall". A nice hit in the center of an ocean is going to be a right bother to clean up after. Put it anywhere near the Ring of Fire and there'll be general fireworks to boot.

I vote for not being hit in the first place. All round best idea today.

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