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People laugh about the story of Chicken Little who cries out that the sky is falling. But a group of astronomers has warned that something like that may very well happen before this half-century is out. They have discovered an asteroid nearly a quarter-mile wide that they think might slam into the earth 30 years from now and are urging immediate action by governments around the world to start planning programs to avert that happening.
Astronaut Asks Congress to Investigate Threatening Asteroid [from: Space.com]
The asteroid, named 2004 MN4, was found last year. It orbits the Sun but crosses the path of Earth. In December, preliminary observations showed it might strike in 2029, according to NASA scientists. It briefly had the highest odds ever assigned to a possible collision. Further investigation ruled out the 2029 impact scenario, but scientists cannot yet rule out an impact in 2036.
The odds of a collision in 2036 are about 1-in-10,000, Schweickart says.
SPACE.com was provided a copy of the paper Schweickart will present. In it, he carries out an informal analysis of the situation. He notes that the asteroid will be mostly out of view from 2006 to 2012. When it re-emerges, fresh observation will likely reduce the 2036 impact chance to zero, he said.
"However, there is a slim chance that we will not be able to draw this conclusion and that an impact will still be possible," he writes.
"One of the first things I’m calling for is validation and checking of the analysis I’ve gone through and the conclusions that fall out of my work," Schweickart told SPACE.com.
Schweickart heads up the B612 Foundation, which since 2003 has advocated for more research and action to protect Earth from stray asteroids.
Should his analysis prove correct after formal study, Schweickart says serious consideration should be given to first placing a radio transponder on the asteroid in order to better track its whereabouts.
Astronomers agree that sooner or later Earth will be struck by a damaging asteroid. While one could sneak up on us any day, the overwhelming odds are that any potential significant impact will be known years in advance.
Still, there are no formal lines of communication between NASA and the White House to handle an imminent threat. And there is no U.S. agency to which the issue of protection of the public and property from the impact of near-Earth asteroids is assigned, Schweickart points out. Who would decide on whether and how to deflect an incoming threat? What agencies would be mobilized to deal with an impact?
The U.S. Congress should take action and assign that responsibility, he said.
"In general, I am calling upon them is to address the overall issue of responsibility for near-Earth object activity in the U.S. government, which does not exist right now," Schweickart said.
The object is estimated to be roughly 1,000 feet (320 meters) in diameter. Were it to hit the planet, it would not cause global devastation but would generate considerable local or regional damage, experts say.
"This is not a marginal asteroid," Schweickart said.
On April 13, 2029, 2004 MN4 will be about 22,600 miles (36,350 kilometers) from Earth's center. That is just below the altitude of geosynchronous satellites.
The extremely rare event will be visible from certain parts of Earth. The flyby will change the orbit of the asteroid and create "a low, but real possibility" that it will return to hit Earth seven years later on April 13, 2036, Schweickart advised.
Let's see what it was 30 years ago... moon flights had been done and space exploration wasn't anymore media sexy.
Originally posted by DaFunk13
Bring it on!
Look at the rate of technological advancement we have experienced in the last 30 years.
Originally posted by Ox
Your quote did use the words "might" slam into the earth.. not will.. Just like the 6 million mile wide acid cloud racing at us at the speed of light will supposedly hit us.. but.. who knows
Originally posted by mashup
I wouldn't worry. The world's gonna end in 2012 anyway.
In the unlikely chance that the world doesn't end in 2012, I'm sure that they'll have some sort of new technology by then.
Either way, I wouldn't worry.