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Asteroid makes ‘flyby’ Thursday

By |, Bobby Lagsa,


AFP, katasztrofak.abbcenter.com and National Historical Commission of the Philippines

A heavenly body packing more energy than 25,000 Hiroshima bombs and which can obliterate Luzon on impact will streak across the skies near Earth on Thursday under the watchful gaze of astronomers the world over.

Scientists will be tracking the path of the asteroid called 99942 Apophis as it comes within 14.5 million kilometers of the Earth’s surface, a distance not visible to the naked eye, but can be seen through a powerful telescope, the country’s chief astronomer said.

“It will appear like a tiny star flying quickly by,” said Dario de la Cruz, head of the space sciences and astronomy section of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The flyby of Apophis, named after the Egyptian god of darkness, affords astronomers an opportunity to monitor the asteroid’s path and recalculate its odds of ramming the planet when it whizzes by again, at a much closer distance, in 16 years’ time, scientists said.

Closer to earth in ’29

On April 13, 2029, it will fly much closer to Earth at 29,470 km, closer even than the orbit of man-made satellites, according to scientists from Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).

There’s also a tiny chance that when the asteroid passes in 2029, the Earth’s gravity may nudge it from its orbit if it passes through what scientists call a “gravitational keyhole,” such that it may collide with Earth when it comes by again in 2036.

While Nasa and other space agencies are busy observing Apophis’ movement, Pagasa won’t be. “We don’t have the capability to track the asteroids. We will have to rely on other space agencies,” De la Cruz said.

At 270 meters in diameter and based on its projected velocity, the heavenly body will deliver more energy than 25,000 Hiroshima bombs if it smashes into Earth, enough to “turn the entire Luzon into dust,” said Jose Mendoza IV, chief of Pagasa’s astronomical publication unit.

The asteroid “will be moving faster than ordinary satellites,” so stargazers will have to keep their telescope ready when it whizzes by, guided by coordinates provided by international space agencies, he said.

Mendoza said Pagasa did not have the state-of-the-art tracking technology needed to observe cosmic rocks like Apophis, but he encouraged astronomy enthusiasts to do their own research.

When it was first discovered in 2004, Apophis’ chance of hitting the Earth was estimated at a startling 2.7 percent but later calculations based on newer information helped lower this to practically nil.

 

Second asteroid

Pagasa is also monitoring—through available data—a small asteroid named 2012 DA14.

Citing Nasa information, Mendoza said the asteroid would pass by Earth at a distance of 24,000 km on Feb. 13.

“Satellites go higher than that. We also continue to monitor DA14 and we are also getting information from Nasa offices,” he  said in an earlier Inquirer interview.

Nasa earlier said DA14 would pass inside the geosynchronous satellite ring, located about 35,800 km above the equator, and “travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC [coordinated universal time].”

But even if it does hit Earth, DA14 “will cause nominal damage.”

Unlike Apophis, DA14—discovered by La Sagra Observatory in Southern Spain—is considered tiny at just 40 m to 45 m in diameter.








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  • spitfire

     It’s not true that it cannot be seen with the naked eye and it will pass
    the earth so fast that you have to be ready to capture it in your camera. If the skies in Manila is not smoggy, you can already see both asteroids with your naked eyes at nighttime. Look up above the constellation Orion and you will see it. I assume Thursday would be an inaccurate date. The one month window originally provided by NASA that is from January 14 to February 15 is more plausible. Keep your fingers crossed that NASA is accurate on their estimate as to it’s trajectory otherwise, pray.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GURBWYA3AIXC22EF6E6HIHRNQE Ornbort Vortingeresdemesus

    of course we don’t have the technology. where are our taxes going? why don’t we have more scientists? how can so many attend a boxing match while having no money to advance science and knowledge? 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/J4OEAG5E2N6ZVY2JUXBS6PKBO4 TypoError

    Armagedon! Cool..

  • WeAry_Bat

    We shouldn’t worry of the chance it will hit Earth. 

    We should worry if a certain senator will make an immediate law banning the fall of asteroids to the Philippines…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WIWYLFLU4LPKS7B2ZLLRVFKS3Y vir_a

    The picture above of aphophis looks like it is as big as the earth



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