Nobody paid attention, but in February scientists reported that on 4/13/36 an asteroid is projected to make a very, very close encounter with earth. The good news is that scientists said there’s only a 1 in 10,000 chance that this thing will ‘hit’ earth. The bad news is that they give those chances now---29 years in the future.
It’ll be the closest pass of any foreign object we can remember. That is, of course, if it passes. Other good news--we may all have different priorities in 29 years.
But the usual caveats are used in this prediction. They also say that, “Informal analysis indicates that the accuracy of our knowledge of the asteroid’s trajectory using optical and radar tracking is likely to be inadequate to make a timely deflection decision in the improbable event that one should be needed.” If one deciphers, the words ‘informal’, ‘accuracy’, ‘inadequate’, and ‘deflection’ seem to stick out like sore thumbs.
Even though the odds seem fairly remote, this rendezvous has one of the highest earth-impact ‘potentials’ ever to be assigned by scientists to an object in space. Scientists are even calling on the United Nations to take action. According to Ben Shapiro(TownHall), “The Association of Space Engineers will present a plan to the UN in 2009 involving the construction of a ‘Gravity Tractor’, which would alter the course...”
But let’s get specific on the known facts. The object(known as ‘2004MN4’) is 320 meters in diameter. In 2005, the calculated impact was only 1 in 10,000(the probability of the average American driver having an accident on any given day). Without getting technical, those odds will likely increase to 1 in 3000 over the period of the next year. In 2012, when the asteroid comes into view again, decisions must be made. If a deflection mission is required to stop an impact, one must consider a last possible date to launch such a mission. Prior to 2028, the sequence must include the deflection decision, mission planning and design, manufacturing, assembly and testing of the aircraft, launch, rendezvous, docking, and the deflection operation itself. It would be highly difficult to compress this sequence to less than fourteen years. This would mean starting the sequence by at least 2014. That is a whole seven years from now.
No agency of the US government is currently responsible for asteroid impacts. NASA has no responsibility for impacts whatsoever, so it will be the responsibility of Congress to investigate, and direct a competent body to recommend appropriate action.
The basic scenario, albeit said highly improbable, will be driven by 2004MN4’s close encounter to the earth on 4/13/29. It will cause a major change in the orbit of 2004MN4, and it will make subsequent orbits closer to earth. The gravitational pull of the earth will force returns very close to earth in 2034, 2035, 2036, and 2037. The year 2036 seems to be the optimum year with the highest probability of impact.
Damage done during a collision is speculative, but there are computer programs that will give an indication. The center of possible impact would be the Pacific Ocean about 1100km off the southern California coast. Tsunami waves into the whole western US coast would be experienced. They would be about twice as high as those waves experienced during the recent Indian Ocean tsunami. It is possible that the actual impact point could be on land(30% probability). The area of destruction would approximate that of the area of Connecticut.
A comprehensive analysis of the cost of asteroid impacts of various sizes is directly from NASA’s report(8/03) by its Near-Earth Object Science Definition Team. An estimate of lives lost from an impact of an object the size of 2004MN4 would be 170,000 people. From work by the EPA, a human life(Value of a Statistical Life/ ‘VSL’) is calculated to be worth ~$1.7 million, and the approximate societal cost of a land impact of 2004MN4 would be ~$289 billion. How they came up with a value for a ‘life’ is unknown.
Never fear, but Science Magazine(4/5/07) has calculated that Asteroid 1950DA(one-kilometer-wide) has a 1 in 300 possibility of slamming into the earth on 3/16/2880. It’s almost funny, but any asteroid impact would have the ‘global warming’ alarmists screaming for warming to occur to thwart the dust kicked up resulting in a proverbial ‘nuclear’ winter.