Illustration for article titled NASA to Doomsday Asteroid Student: Shut Up, Dimwit

Stop looting supermarkets and get back to your homes, because NASA is saying that "doomsday" asteroid Apophis doesn't have any significant chance of impacting Earth in 2036, basically classifying the 13-year-old German student as a moronic smartypants. In fact, even if it hit, it wouldn't have been the end of the world. Or that's what we would like to believe, looking at all the information we have compiled:


NASA said in a statement today that they haven't talked with any German student and that, from what they have read, he's absolutely wrong. The student said that NASA's math was erroneous because they didn't take into account the probability of Apophis hitting a geosynchronous satellite, which would have made the "apocalyptical" piece of rock hit the Earth in its next orbit, basically killing most life in the planet a lot of the life over a large region, with an impact energy estimated in 880 megatons of TNT, Jerry Bruckheimer-style.

To give you an idea of how powerful this is, the original atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima unleashed only 13 kilotons of TNT, while the combined energy of all explosives used in World War 2 was an estimated five megatons. Or compared to a more modern example: the largest bomb ever detonated in this planet was 50 megatons, the Soviet RDS-220 hydrogen bomb or Tsar Bomba (you have to love the fact that Humanity can be more destructive than any asteroid passing by.)

The space agency, however, says that there's no chance of Apophis hitting a satellite because it's not going to get anywhere near the "main belt of geosynchronous satellites," saying that the Near Earth Object Program at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory maintains their previous hit estimate: 1 in 45,000 chance of Apophis destroying some Earthlings in 2035. And a 1 in 23 million hit probability in 2037.


This makes Apophis a type 0 in the Torino scale. In other words: "NO HAZARD. The likelihood of a collision is zero, or is so low as to be effectively zero. Also applies to small objects such as meteors and bodies that burn up in the atmosphere as well as infrequent meteorite falls that rarely cause damage." Quite far from the other extreme alternative, the type 0: "A collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean. Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often."

But even if it Apophis hit Earth, according to NASA it would not be devastating for planetary life. The effects would have been bad, yes, depending on the composition and the area of impact, but it wouldn't have been enough to start a global climate change according to the projections. It could have destroyed something like the West Coast with a giant tsunami, if it fell on the Pacific, but not obliterate all life in the Northern Hemisphere.


In any case, we are glad that this is the case. First, that a) this German kid is an idiot, b) the news agencies are stupid, and c) we are even more stupid for believing them. Still, our favorite tin foil hat theory is that this may all be a conspiracy to hide Humanity from the prospect of certain extinction. Your bet, in the poll:


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NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

WASHINGTON — The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036.

Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

This student's conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid's close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote.

Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.


[Apophis, Torino Hazard Scale, NASA Near Earth Object Program, and NASA News Release]

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