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13-year-old boy corrects NASA… but is he correct?

By Antonio Marques • Apr 16th, 2008 • Category: Astronomy, Highlight, News

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13-year-old boy corrected NASA on estimates of asteroid Apophis colliding with Earth. But did he?

NASA estimated that chances of asteroid Apophis colliding with Earth were 1 in 405,000. It seems that they might have been wrong.

A 13-year-old boy, working for a regional science competition on Germany, has submitted his report entitled “Apophis – The Killer Asteroid” in which he estimates that chances of collision are much higher at just 1 in 450.

On an article by AFP it’s mentioned that

NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.

For he’s calculations, the 13-year-old has considered the chances of Apophis hitting one of the more than 40,000 artificial satellites currently orbiting Earth, which would change the asteroid’s trajectory and highly increase the chances of collision on the next orbit in 2036.

But is he correct?

Now, Don Yeomans from NASA had this to say

We have not corresponded with this young man and this story is absurd, a hoax or both. During its 2029 Earth close approach, Apophis will approach the Earth to about 38,900 km, well inside the geosynchronous distance at 42,240 km. However, the asteroid will cross the equatorial belt at a distance of 51,000 km – well outside the geosynchronous distance. Since the uncertainty on Apophis’ position during the Earth close approach is about 1500 km, Apophis cannot approach an Earth satellite. Apophis will not cross the moon’s orbital plane at the Moon’s orbital distance so it cannot approach the moon either.

It seems that the judges (maybe even the AFP) should have, at least, contacted someone in NASA to confirm the allegations. And I don’t know if it helped to come out to one of German’s leading tabloids saying something that can be translated to “I have calculated the end of the world … and NASA says, I’m right”.

If this is true or not, I think only the Space Agencies’ computers and simulation algorithms can tell.

But that it’s having a fair amount of publicity, that no one can deny.

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2 Responses »

  1. 13-year-old boy corrects NASA… but is he correct?…

    13-year-old boy corrected NASA on estimates of asteroid Apophis colliding with Earth. But did he?…

  2. What is the latest up date in this issue ? Wheter the computer simulation has been made or not ?

    Please tell me chances of asteroid Apophis collision with Earth.

    Regards

    Sudarshana K Shanbhogue
    India

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