A brief look into the future.
The year is 2029 and a very dangerous asteroid named Apophis is making its closest approach to Earth.
Humans are awaiting this moment with great anxiety as they will finally learn whether the space killer will strike Earth when it returns in the year 2036.
Just how dangerous is Apophis really?
A huge, potentially hazardous, aircraft carrier-sized asteroid named Apophis, is rushing toward Earth at speeds of more than 30 thousand km per hour.
This NEA (Near-Earth Asteroids) has a size of 320 m and mass of about 4.6 × 1010 kg.
Apophis (circled) in a composite of five exposures taken on January 31 with the University of Hawaii 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea.
The doughnut in the upper left corner is an artifact caused by a dust speck on the camera. Image by D. Tholen, M. Micheli, G. Elliott, IfA.
It constitutes a possible danger from the sky that may hit our planet as preliminary planned.
Such events did actually happen before and will certainly take place in the future.
We hope that Apophis' passing close to the Earth will be ONLY a great astronomical event for all observers in Europe, Africa and western Asia and no harm will be done.
The computation of Earth impact probabilities for near-Earth objects is a complex process requiring sophisticated mathematical methods and it's not any easy work.
For now a possible impact risk from Apophis (MN4) still does exist.
The asteroid will be making the nearest-in-time close approach with Earth on April 13, 2029,
when the minimum distance of the asteroid from the Earth's center will be as small as 38 000 km (23,612 miles).
Will Apophis hit our planet?
It was previously predicted that Apophis will pass about 36350 km above the Earth on April 13, 2029.
Recent observations using Doppler radar at the giant Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico confirmed that Apophis will swing by at
about 32000 km above the Earth in 2029, but with a chance of resonant return in 2036.
So, there's no danger of being hit in 2029, but the force of Earth's gravity will have a great influence on Apophis and its orbit.
"When it does pass close to us on April 13, 2029, the Earth will deflect it and change its orbit. There's a small possibility that if
it passes through a particular point in space, the so-called keyhole, ... the Earth's gravity will change things
so that when it comes back around again in 2036, it will collide with us," according to Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer from Queen's University Belfast.
The chance of Apophis passing through the keyhole, a 600-metre patch of space, is 1 in 5,500 based on current information.
Scientists seriously consider this transformation because it may result in new dangerous approaches and even in probable Apophis collisions with the Earth starting from 2036.
If that happened, there would be a massive destruction, and the victims could be counted in millions. It will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean, according to predictions.
The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.
In 2012, Apophis will become observable for approximately nine months. More accurate forecasting will be achieved due to additional optical and radar observations in 2013, when Apophis will pass close enough to Earth for ultraprecise radar signals to be bounced off its surface.
Our next possibility to observe this asteroid will be in 2020-2021.
Scientists from many countries joined their efforts in closely watching the flight path of this asteroid and they will know much more and more exactly in 2029 when the asteroid will come to a specific trajectory . This trajectory is unfortunately possible and if it happens - the impact will become inevitable.
According to Dr. Donald Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program, Apophis is not likely to hit Earth in 2036.
However, "if the object passes through a 600-meter-sized keyhole in 2029 - that is, a location in space that is only 600 meters wide - it will indeed hit the Earth in 2036. But the chances of its actually passing through this 600-meter-sized keyhole in space in 2029 are extremely low." he said.
Timelapse of Asteroid 2004 FH's flyby (NASA/JPL Public Domain) 2004 FH is the centre dot being followed by the sequence;
the object that flashes by near the end is an artificial satellite. Images obtained by Stefano Sposetti, Switzerland on March 18,
2004. Animation made Raoul Behrend, Geneva Observatory, Switzerland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Astronomers of Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, Poland say that "the present observations are not adequate to eliminate definitely the possibility of impact with the Earth in 2036 and in many years following this year even in fully ballistic model…"
There are many asteroid collision avoidance strategies ideas, but at least one of them must be reasonable and possible to realize in … good time, if necessary.
Russian scientists made their own calculations and propose an unmanned machine, designed solely for the purpose of diverting Apophis from a collision course with Earth safely.
At the same time, Professor Leonid Sokolov of the Saint Petersburg State University in Russia believes that the chance of a collision in 2036 is extremely slim saying that the asteroid would likely disintegrate into smaller parts and smaller collisions with Earth could occur in the following years.
However, he adds that "our task is to consider various alternatives and develop scenarios and plans of action depending on the results of further observations of Apophis."
And so, one of many alternatives is a 10 kg solar sail with a lead-time of one year can move Apophis out of a 600-m keyhole area in 2029 to eliminate the possibility of its resonant return in 2036, according to Chinese scientist Shengping Gong of Tsinghua University, Beijing.
Along with his colleagues, he propose this alternative solution to the Apophis problem in their paper.
In 2029, we'll know much more about the danger from Apophis. If necessary, Apophis can be deflected, but a deflection mission must be determined soon enough.
We'll have seven years to alter its course enough to miss our planet in 2036 preventing the tragedy.
Is it enough time to do so? Is it enough time to test any asteroid-deflection plan in order to put it almost immediately into practice?
Many say that if the object gets close enough, it would be a good research opportunity. Of course… we hope so!
Because if it comes too close we'll not have time to research anything!
Abnormal Star Discovered In The 'Forbidden Zone'
A team of astrophysicists from Germany, France and Italy have discovered in the constellation Leo is an old star.
The star's existence raised at once many questions for scientists.
The object is definitely not as its "contemporaries" that appeared immediately after the Big Bang event.
Asteroid 2011 AG5 Will Not Impact
Earth In 2040 - Researchers Say
Asteroid 2011 AG5, discovered in January 2011, will fly safely past and not impact Earth in 2040, according to researchers.
Observations to date indicate there is a slight chance that AG5 could impact Earth in 2040. Attendees expressed
confidence that in the next four years, analysis of space and ground-based observations will show the likelihood
of 2011 AG5 missing Earth to be greater than 99 percent.
Tremendous Explosion And Appearance Of Odd Rings
Twenty five years ago, on 1987 February 23, the brightest supernova of modern times was observed in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
The collision occurred at speeds near 60 million kilometers per hour and shock-heats the ring material causing it to glow.
Over time, astronomers have watched and waited for the expanding debris from this tremendous stellar
explosion to crash into previously expelled material.
Violent Dragon Clash Billions Of Years Ago
NGC 5907 is sometimes called the "Splinter" or Knife Edge Galaxy because of its unusual appearance.
It is a spiral galaxy lying in the Dragon constellation,
about 40 million light-years from Earth that could have been formed through a gigantic collision of galaxies, 8 to 9 billion years ago.
The "Cloaked" Star Was Difficult To Find
An object obscured by dust, and buried in a two-star system enshrouded by dense gas, is not easy to find.
A "cloaked" star was discovered after it ate a little of its neighbor. The meal must have given the star a bit of indigestion, because it
"burped" with a blast of high-energy radiation, which gave it away.
First Discovered Carbon-Rich Planet: Could It Harbor Life?
WASP-12b is the first carbon-rich world ever observed. It is an extremely hot and large gas giant orbiting another star and it has unusual amount of carbon.
Carbon is a common component of planetary systems and a key ingredient of life on Earth.
Does it mean some kind of life might exist on WASP-12b?
Invader From Another Galaxy
This alien intruder from another galaxy is in many ways different from other exoplanets observed by astronomers.
Located about 2000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (the Furnace), the Jupiter-like planet orbits a dying star of
extragalactic origin and risks to be engulfed by it.