Asteroid could strike Earth in 2036, according to Russian scientists

Is a 900-foot asteroid really en route to our planet?

Topics: Natural Disasters, NASA, Science,

Asteroid could strike Earth in 2036, according to Russian scientistsDramatization of Apophis asteroid striking Earth

If 2012 doesn’t bring the dramatic Spielberg amalgamation of aliens, bombs, and drastic climate change, there’s always 2036. That’s the year an asteroid will slam into Earth according to a group of Russian scientists. 

According to United Press International, Russian scientists say there’s the chance that a 900-foot asteroid could cause a global cataclysm in a little over twenty years. Professor Leonid Sokolov of St. Petersburg State University says casually of Asteroid Apophis, “Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036.” His nonchalance stems from the belief that scientists by that time will have found ways to prevent the collision.

NASA scientists are equally insouciant to our potential dinosaur demolition.  In 2009, NASA scientists disclaimed the chances of Apophis hitting earth in 2036, and adhere to their position still today.

Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth object Program Office said that “technically” the Russian scientists are correct. “There is a chance in 2036,” says Yoemans. But this chance, he adds, is about 1 in 250,000. Upon its discovery in 2004, NASA did vocalize a concern that Apophis had a 2.7 percent chance of striking in 2029. They were quick to modify this claim, however, stating instead, “There will be a historically close approach to the Earth, estimated to be a 1 in 800 year event” in 2029.

Both Russian and American scientists agree that 2029 will bring Apophis within a remarkable 23,000 miles of Earth. The discord between the two institutions, however, emerges from slight differences in calculations.

These are a lot of facts and figures and speculations drawn from them. It’s worth pointing out that there’s a very big “if” at stake. The Russian numbers predict that the asteroid (approximately the size of two football fields) will travel through a gravitational keyhole in 2029, as it passes by Earth. The gravitational pull on the asteroid as it passes through this keyhole will reset its trajectory ensuring a direct hit with our planet by 2036. 



While Yoemans agrees that the passage of the asteroid through the keyhole would set the mass on a collision course with Earth, he argues that the chances are miniscule. Either way, he’s still confident that NASA will have found a way to change the orbit of Apophis before 2036.

Here’s to hoping. Meantime, here’s what it might look like:

Amy Steinberg is an editorial fellow at Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>