Home / Culture and Society / Science and Technology / Either Apophis is Approaching Disguised as Chicken Little or “Sulu I Need Those Phasers Charged NOW!”

Either Apophis is Approaching Disguised as Chicken Little or “Sulu I Need Those Phasers Charged NOW!”

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I remember back in the early 70s when it was predicted that California was going to fall into the ocean as the result of a coming massive earthquake. Using that as a backdrop now comes word that Sunday April 13, 2036 is definitely not going to be a good day. That NASA scientists have pegged it down to the day has me a bit more concerned than the prospect of developing potential beachfront property in Reno Nevada.

What is all the fuss about? Oh nothing really; just a little tiny space rock named Apophis that’s only about 1,000 feet wide that NASA says appears to be on a collision course with Earth. You could say it’s predicted that we’re about to become the object of affection in a cosmic game of 8-ball.

Chicken Little’s prediction that “The sky is falling!” could actually come true! Especially since Arizona’s 4,000-foot-wide Barringer Asteroid Crater has apparently been waiting expectantly and/or impatiently for his big brother to arrive. The only trouble is the result of that predicted reunion is bound to be wider than the average state!

Right now we have only two factors that could alter this doomsday scenario. On the negative side, we have the nightmare that it’d break apart in Earth’s gravity and shower chunks over a larger area instead of concentrating the impact on one site, such as what happened when the Shoemaker-Levy comet broke up before it hit Jupiter. For the better, maybe our battered Moon will get in the way. Merely looking at our lunar buddy with a good pair of binoculars will tell you how many times it’s saved our butts before. Then again, the latest theory is that that very same moon was created when a Mars-sized planet hit us, sheering off enough material to create our lunar neighbor. Fortunately Apophis appears to be much, much smaller — thank goodness.

Astrobiologist David Morrison of NASAs Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA has declared the threat real and credible. The date is set for April 13th 2036 (which oddly enough isn’t a Friday), but what really gives me pause is they’ve started to quote odds—1 in 6,250 to be exact. Considering the odds are higher at being an a airline crash, being struck by lightning, or Boston winning the World Series three years in a row, that little ratio should give you pause!

Should the rock actually hit earth, it’d have the equivalent punch of 65,000 Hiroshima bombs or approximately 880 million tons of dynamite.

While the tendency is to laugh this off, (after all, I’ll be 86 by then-what do I care?) just ponder that the scientific community is so concerned about this, that in recent years Congress has authorized funds to identify asteroids more than about half a mile in diameter that might cross Earth’s path by 2008, and plans have been put into the works to develop strategies to deflect, ram or destroy those threats by 2015.

Now before you scoff at only 1,000 feet in diameter consider this; a rock only approximately 200 feet in diameter took out Siberia’s Tunguska forest in 1908 devastating an area the size of Rhode Island and destroying 60 million trees.

If you think about it, this might be a good thing! At least the resulting worldwide dust cloud will solve our “Global Warming” problem!

Just to be on the safe side, I think I’ll spend the day in church and see about altering my future homeowner’s insurance policy.

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About Jet Gardner

I like collecting books, music, movies, chess sets and friends
  • A small asteroid zipped by Earth well inside the orbit of the moon today (Sept. 30), the second space rock encounter for our planet this week. Both asteroids posed no threat to Earth, scientists say.

    “Small asteroid 2011 SM173 just passed Earth at a safe distance of 180,000 miles (290,000 km or .8 lunar distance),” scientists with NASA’s Asteroid Watch program announced in a Twitter post today.

    Asteroid 2011 SM173 was discovered yesterday by astronomers and is about 56 feet (17 meters) wide, making it about the size of a house. Its flyby came just four days after the pass of another space rock — the asteroid 2011 SE58 —which actually came even closer to Earth.

    Both asteroids were too small to threaten Earth with a serious impact. If they had barreled into Earth, they likely would have burned up completely in Earth’s atmosphere, the researchers said.

    “Rocky asteroids the size of 2011 SE58 are not considered hazardous as they break up in the atmosphere & cause no ground damage,” Asteroid Watch scientists wrote.

    Asteroid 2011 SE58 was discovered by skywatchers on Sept. 21, according to database maintained by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

    By coincidence, the asteroid flybys this week occurred just as NASA announced the latest results from its efforts to find the largest near-Earth asteroids, objects that could potentially endanger Earth.

  • Jet

    No rajesh, 2036 is the end of the world… whoops lost my home keys

  • Nancy

    Dammit, between the Mayan claim the world will end on 12-21-2012 & this lousy asteroid, I’ll never get to collect my retirement-!

  • I love it, I wrote this last May and it’s just now hitting David Letterman’s monologue last night!

  • CNN’s Situation Room just broadcast this 6-month-old story this evening???!!! Either I’m psychic or I’ve got to stop publishing articles on stuff the moment I hear about them!

    I’m actually becoming “Old News” before it becomes “New News”!!!

  • Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhuru and the rest of the crew of the original Starship Enterprise – on the original Star Trek television series in 1966 – never had a view like this.
    Starting Saturday, Oct. 7, visitors to The Planetarium at the Reading Public Museum will be able “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” through the technological wonders of SciDome, a state-of-the art, digital system that Gene Roddenberry could only wish for as his crew dangled tiny plastic Enterprise’s in front of a “starry universe” of painted dots.
    SciDome, which was installed in the planetarium while it was closed this summer, is a full-immersion video system that offers real-time 3-D sky simulation, full-dome shows and multimedia presentations.
    Its starfield quality, astronomical detail and teaching capabilities make it one of the finest digital planetarium systems available.
    SciDome utilizes a high resolution D-ILA digital projector in combination with a fisheye lens to produce imagery that surrounds the audience with bright, seamless video imagery.
    “The quality is amazing. These upgrades make your experience seem more real than ever before. You see the universe in fantastic detail, color and movement,” said Mark Mazurkiewicz, planetarium manager and producer.
    “We’ve evolved into a digital era, and can now continue our role as a space science leader in this region.”
    Other improvements in the planetarium include new seating for 100 people, upgraded sound system and lighting, new carpeting and a renovated lobby.
    The planetarium opened in 1969 and has presented thousands of shows to the general public, including more than a half-million school children.
    A grand reopening weekend for the planetarium Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7-8, will feature retired NASA Astronaut Story Musgrave and Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts.
    Musgrave’s career spans from the Apollo era of the 196os through the Space Shuttle era of the 1990s.
    He is the only astronaut to fly all five space shuttles, and has clocked more time in space than any other astronaut.
    He worked on the design and development of the Skylab space station, and helped to carry out the first major Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, completed over a record five spacewalks – three by Story.
    Pitts is also the host of “SkyTalk,” a popular weekly discussion of what’s new and interesting in astronomy, and “SkyTour,” a unique “home planetarium show” broadcast live from a location in the field – both aired on WHYY-FM in Philadelphia.
    He’s also seen regularly on CNN, CBS News, The Today Show, MSNBC, Good Morning America and the History Channel, as well as many regional television and radio stations.
    The reopening weekend also will be packed with festivities for the whole family, including giveaways, refreshments, free telescope demonstrations, free kids’ moon bounce, free planetarium show previews, live radio broadcasts, laser shows and more.
    For the grand reopening, The Planetarium at the Reading Public Museum, 500 Museum Road, Reading, will feature Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and planetarium programs director at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7; retired NASA Astronaut Story Musgrave at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8; the laser show, “Laser Classic Rock Mix,” at 6 p.m. Saturday, and “Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon” at 7 p.m. Saturday; and “Life in Space” by the Franklin Institute and NASA, featuring simulated “astronaut training” on gravity, orbit and action-reaction, through simulated “astronaut training.” at 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday.
    After reopening weekend, the planetarium will offer its first full-dome show, Oasis in Space, which takes the viewer on a startling and beautiful voyage through the universe, galaxy and solar system in search of liquid water, at 6 and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Sundays.
    Admission: $4-6.
    More info: 610-371-5850; http://www.planetarium.readingpublicmuseum.org.

  • Thanks Victor, but I can’t seem to find any more references to it, they probably canceled it after the thing with Isreal started…

  • Hmmmm worth looking into Victor, Thanks for the suggestion

  • That Quijote mission probably merits an article of its own, Jet.

  • The solution’s on Comment 38 kids, if Bush doesn’t cancel any cooperation with the ESA

  • You’ve got to admit that the ESA’s solution is elegant in its simplicity. And it didn’t take a dozen usless and expensive senate sub-committees and Haliburton to come up with it either.

  • To put it mildly, yes.

  • Okay, now that’s cool. I guess the ESA got tired of watching Americans take credit for saving the world over and over again, and decided it was Europe’s turn at bat.

  • Gianmarco Radice of Glasgow University has a few thoughts on how to avoid a collision with Apophis. “The deflection methods fall mainly in two categories, kinetic methods and low-thrust methods,”

    Dodging disaster

    Solar mirror
    This would reflect light from the sun on to the asteroid to boil parts away. The stream of gases would move the asteroid out of the way of the Earth.

    Covering the asteroid with paint or materials that either absorb or reflect light, heating or cooling bits and changing and way it moves.

    Collision course
    Smash a spacecraft into the asteroid to try to blow material away from the rock and change the asteroid’s orbit.

    Land a rocket on the asteroid and use it to propel the rock in a different direction. Chemicals on the asteroid could be used.

    “Kinetic methods are those which provide an instantaneous change of properties within the asteroid. Sending a nuclear warhead or some sort of exploding device against the asteroid (…) to create shock wave, for example. Low-thrust methods range from painting the surface of the asteroid with reflective or absorbing paint so that the properties of the surface are changed by attracting more or less light, thus heating or cooling the surface and changing the physical properties of the asteroid.”

    Whatever method is used, it would only change the path of the asteroid by minute amounts. “You can make very small adjustments to their orbits to create large changes in their orbits in the future,” said Prof McInnes.

    Preparing for a potential catastrophe is a valid concern.

    The exact methods used would have to vary depending on the type of asteroid being targeted. Some asteroids, known as rubble piles, are loose collections of rocks and ice. Slamming a rocket into these would be useless because the energy of the impact would just be absorbed, like the crumple zones in a car.

    In this case, one method might mean melting part of the surface of the asteroid by concentrated sunlight. A large solar sail or mirror could reflect sunlight on to the surface of the asteroid and burn part of it away. The jets of gas produced would create a small but constant thrust that could deviate the asteroid into a new orbit.

    More traditional solid asteroids have a range of options. “Another method is to place some sort of thrusting device on the surface of the asteroid,” said Dr Radice. “It can either have its own fuel source, for example a solar power generator, which will create a very low thrust but over a longer period of time. Or you would have some sort of motor that uses the chemicals inside the asteroids to generate the fuel to work.”
    Alternatively, a spaceship could be launched and hurled directly into the asteroid. The idea would not be to physically push the asteroid away but to use the collision to gouge out a hole in the rock. The ejection of material would then push the asteroid in a different direction.
    Meanwhile the European Space Agency (Esa) has already announced plans to conduct an experiment in deflecting asteroids away from the Earth.

    Esa’s Don Quijote mission will consist of two spacecraft: Hidalgo and Sancho. The former craft will smash into an asteroid named Apophis, which is expected to make its closest pass by the Earth in 2029, when it will be only 32,000km away.
    The Sancho spacecraft will watch the collision and record any shift in the asteroid’s trajectory. Esa plans to begin building Don Quijote in 2007, after a competition to select the best design from several European contenders.

  • Frankly I’m shocked that sr hasn’t come out with a “Kill all unborn gay asteroids!” yet. Come on fella it’s been over a month and a half since I wrote this.

    You slacking off or just doing something that rhymes?

  • Ruvy are you implying that the Bush administration couldn’t find a way somehow to fund something?


  • heh….

    i’m open ta suggestions Ruvy…


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I read your comment at #31. Looks like we have a brilliant Krewe here ( I still haven’t forgotten your article about a triple switch for computers, young man). Does the funding have to come from Uncle Sam? After all, what with flushing money down the toilet in Iraq, cntrolling the not so easy to control puppets in the Middle East, and trying to maneuver the Russians into a corner, and now dealing with the North Koreans sending loaded rocket propelled straws into the Sea of Japan, I’d say the Americans have their plate full…

  • Thank you Victor and Gonzo… I learned something and I appreciate your input.


  • Ah, you’ve answered my other question. Clearly you’re talking about the Sun-Earth L1, L2, and L3; not the Earth-Moon ones.

    Only trouble is, Sun-Earth L3 is probably the toughest place to maintain a station, though. We’d better throw in a relay station at L4, which always has a direct line of sight to both Earth and L3.

    That leaves L5 for all those folks who want to build O’Neill cylinders there. (Another inside joke for those few of us old enough to remember the L5 Society.)

  • i would think 1 and 2 would be sufficient, especially for anti ICBM functions…

    but add L3 for safety’s sake against extra-solar objects…they could be sneaky and try and keep the sun between us until the last Moment

    but i’m paranoid like that

    and i think only you, duane and the long lost Bennett would have gotten that joke…(ok, mebbe DrPat too)


  • Which Lagrange Points did you have in mind, Gonzo?

  • i’m telling ya, the Problem is simplicity itself to solve with off the shelf tech

    equidistant LaGrange point orbiting platforms, solar array, laptop (redundancy everywhere, i tell you three times) with a ballistic program, Phalanx system right from Navy spec….networked into Hubble and Spitzer and any other spotting scope we have…

    once an Object has been identified with a possible collision ballistic, the Phalanx calculate and intersect orbit and fire off 1000 rounds each

    rinse and repeat until vector and or velocity of said Object is off impact course

    not even that expensive a project, which..if ya really want, can also be used to take down niter continental ballistic missiles when they escape orbit and before they re-enter

    now…where do i get the bigtime Funding for such a nice, simple, dual purpose Toy?


  • Dammit, Jet! I’m a blogger, not a… Hmm. Guess I should comment after all.

    I appreciate your article here. I must have been a bit busy when you first posted it. It’s well-written and informative.

    Thing of it is, I’ve been following the asteroid and comet impact issue for well over a decade now. I was interested in this stuff even before the year when both Armageddon and Deep Impact came out in theaters. (Armageddon had the worst science of those two, but a few better humorous one-liners, in case anyone was wondering.) In all those years, the announcement of possible impact events has always followed the same pattern.

    Every time a potential impact event is announced, it starts out with odds like “1 in 6,250” or “1 in 25,000” or whatever. Then with every new calculation based on better observations, the odds get more and more remote, until everybody has to admit the real chance of an impact from that object is effectively zero.

    If they ever announce an object where the probability of an impact gets higher with every better observation, then they’ll really have my attention riveted.

    Likewise, if someone ever announces a serious project to track down every object with an Earth-crossing orbit, rather than just continuing the trickle of funding the current feeble search efforts are getting, I’ll also certainly sit up and take notice.

  • ummmmmm….spooning with the Missus?

    watching my granite farm grow?

    [insert plethora of other inane and silly answers here]


  • Tell me something Victor and Gonzo-Where were you when I wrote this back in May???

  • ArchBingBat asked if the only thing I write about has to do with sexual orientation, Hmmmmmmmm?

  • You know Ruvy, it sucks that I can’t laugh at it. If Bush hadn’t cut funding for the new orbital telescopes for his planned useless moon shot, I might’ve been able to post some interesting photos.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is only going to last so long.

    But seeing things that are millions of light-years away, sort of negates “Intelligent Design” theories that the universe is only a few thousand years old, and Bush can’t have that. After all the religious nuts and Archie the Con is all he’s got left nowadays.

  • Thanks Ruvy, That means a lot to me. Tell her I said thanks.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    She laughed at comment #16 and thought you did a good job on the article on outsourcing NASA to India. And you did!

  • Please tell me she laughed at comment 16!!!!

  • Ruvy, I wrote a new article concerning Nasa being farmed out to India, and did a lot of research with your wife’s approval in mind…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Jet at #16. If my wife is that good when she is that old, I’ll have married a wonder woman.

  • Across your open mind,
    I trace erratic lines,
    In motion and in time.

    I fought a battle won,
    To the surface of the sun,
    Through fires on and on

    It’s only you
    It can’t be me
    For I myself refuse to be
    I am someone you’ll never know
    I am the little neutrino

    Solus is not far away
    It’s face is brighter than a day
    So don’t turn me away

    It’s only you
    It can’t be me
    For I myself refuse to be
    I am someone you’ll never know
    I am the little neutrino

    And now I’m passing through
    The one who is known as you
    And yet, you’ll never know I do
    I really do

    As performed by Klaatu

  • Since I posted on my other string, I better post it here too…

    From the 70s Rock Group Klaatu (famous for “Calling Occuppants of Interplanetary Craft before the Carpenters ruined it) we have this little ditty…

    Late last night
    While wishing on a star
    Down from the sky
    Came a man in a car
    He said “Get in Jackson
    Come on, let’s go for a ride”
    Outta sight

    Sitting in a cockpit
    Strapped down in a chair
    I said “Hey, tell me
    What’s that over there?”
    He said “Meet my computer
    He’s a friendly son-of-a-gun”
    And we’re having fun

    Playing cards on Venus
    In a cloudy room
    Pass a glass of ammonia
    I’ve got to get off soon
    Sunbathing on Mercury
    Or jamming on Jupiter
    Which do you prefer?

    It’s getting pretty late
    I got to go home
    Nice to have met you
    What’s your telephone?
    Maybe soon I’ll call you
    If I can afford the fare
    It’s long distance out there

    Anus of Uranus
    He’s a friend of mine
    He’s a first rate party
    And a real fine time

    “Farrrrrrrrr out man!”

  • Or better yet, we could get Ruvy’s wife to stare up into the sky and scare it away???

  • Ruvy, though I gay, even I know there’s nothing in this world more dangerous than a bored wife!

    Solus mei sententia

  • #14 just re-read it, okay ruvy…

  • Well Ruvy, I just wrote another astronomy article that’s waiting to be posted, maybe she’ll like that one better…

    Shabbat Shalom,

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    I didn’t say I got bored. I didn’t. I enjoyed the article. My WIFE got bored (such a loving husband – making his wife the bad guy). What I did say was that I would have gone mre deeply into the results of such a pretty little pebble hitting us from space – like the tsunami it would cause if it landed in the water, for example…

    Please read what I wrote.

    Shabbat Shalom,

  • Okay, Mr. Rose, in that case I’ll leave it as opinion. Ruvy, you’re never too old to watch Sulu charge up his phasers!

    Solus mei sententia

  • Shabbat shalom Ruvy… come on and cut me some slack! You said…”felt it started out with a big splash and got boring”

    It started out as a whimsical lark and then went into details.

    You said…”I might have gone more into detail about the possible damage and the factors that would affect that damage…”

    But Ruvy, that’s when you said you got bored!!!

    I can’t win… I just can’t win…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Jet, I enjoyed the article, though I have to tell you that my wife, who is not a writer, felt it started out with a big splash and got boring.

    Were I writing this, I might have gone more into detail about the possible damage and the factors that would affect that damage, like if it hit in the ocean, knocked out the Arab oil wells, or whatever.

    Nevertheless, I’ll be 85 by then and unless my health really holds up, it ain’t going to matter that much – but there are my putative grandchildrewn to consider…

    Maybe somebody better think of charging up the phasers. Sulu, unfortunately, may be a litle old for the job.

  • Science is what I read for fun, Jet. As to satire, I think the European and American ideas of satire are not quite the same. It seems used more as a generalised comedy tag in the USA and carries a lot more sting in Europe.

  • lol Before I had to sell my telescope I was an amateur astonomer. What with all the b5 and disney articles, I didn’t think anyone would be interested.

    Should I have posted this under “Satire” instead?

  • I read a lot about science issues, both online and off, so it is always great to see more stuff in that area on BC. I’m not at all sure about your proposed solution though!

  • So are you mad you thought it ws a bait and switch or did you like the article?

  • When your headline caught my eye I thought this article was going to tie together Stargate and Star Trek for one glorious moment!

  • Hence the whimsical title. Thanks RJ

  • If they are predicting “1 in 6,250” now, they are likely to be predicting about “1 in a trillion” a few months/years from now…

    As further observations come in, we are likely to have a better idea of just where this bad boy is headed. And it is unlikely to be headed directly at us (just like throwing a pebble at a basketball and actually hitting it is unlikely, if that basketball is a football field away, and constantly moving across a certain plane).

    So, no need to buy an underground bunker just yet…

  • Thank you Mark!