Potentially hazardous asteroid might collide with the Earth in 2182

Potentially hazardous asteroid might collide with the Earth in 2182
These are asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft. Credit: ESA, NASA, JAXA, RAS, JHUAPL, UMD, OSIRIS

The potentially hazardous asteroid, (101955) 1999 RQ36, has a one-in-a-thousand chance of impacting the Earth, and more than half of this probability indicates that this could happen in the year 2182, based on a global study in which Spanish researchers have been involved. Knowing this fact may help design in advance mechanisms aimed at deviating the asteroid's path.

"The total impact probability of asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' can be estimated in 0.00092 -approximately one-in-a-thousand chance-, but what is most surprising is that over half of this chance (0.00054) corresponds to 2182," explains to SINC María Eugenia Sansaturio, co-author of the study and researcher of Universidad de Valladolid (UVA). The research also involved scientists from the University of Pisa (Italy), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA) and INAF-IASF-Rome (Italy).

Scientists have estimated and monitored the potential impacts for this asteroid through 2200 by means of two mathematical models (Monte Carlo Method and line of variations sampling). Thus, the so called Virtual Impactors (VIs) have been searched. VIs are sets of statistical uncertainty leading to collisions with the on different dates of the XXII century. Two VIs appear in 2182 with more than half the chance of impact.

Asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' is part of the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA), which have the possibility of hitting the Earth due to the closeness of their orbits, and they may cause damages. This PHA was discovered in 1999 and has around 560 meters in diameter.

The Yarkovsky effect

In practice, its orbit is well determined thanks to 290 optical observations and 13 radar measurements, but there is a significant "orbital uncertainty" because, besides gravity, its path is influenced by the Yarkovsky effect. Such disturbance slightly modifies the orbits of the Solar System's small objects because, when rotating, they radiate from one side the radiation they take from the sun through the other side.

The research, which has been published in Icarus journal, predicts what could happen in the upcoming years considering this effect. Up to 2060, divergence of the impacting orbits is moderate; between 2060 and 2080 it increases 4 orders of magnitude because the will approach the Earth in those years; then, it increases again on a slight basis until another approach in 2162, it then decreases, and 2182 is the most likely year for the collision.

"The consequence of this complex dynamic is not just the likelihood of a comparatively large impact, but also that a realistic deflection procedure (path deviation) could only be made before the impact in 2080, and more easily, before 2060," stands out Sansaturio.

The scientist concludes: "If this object had been discovered after 2080, the deflection would require a technology that is not currently available. Therefore, this example suggests that impact monitoring, which up to date does not cover more than 80 or 100 years, may need to encompass more than one century. Thus, the efforts to deviate this type of objects could be conducted with moderate resources, from a technological and financial point of view."

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NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

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Jul 27, 2010
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Jul 27, 2010
I imagine we have a turret ring around the earth by that time, which will target asteroids like in starship troopers.

Jul 27, 2010
How strange. Think about this: In the example above, let's pretend that the likelyhood of impact were much higher, like 1/10. We would have to do something at that point, so we spend billions of dollars and we successfully deflect this rock in 20 years. Our theoretical impact isn't 100% sure, just one in ten, but we moved it enough that it's no longer a danger. The people we saved aren't alive yet, and most of them won't even be born until long after we are all dead. That's 172 years from now. Would anyone even remember it except a historian, physicist or astronomer? When that year eventually comes, would they celebrate our efforts with a holiday or a TV mini-series?

Just an idle thought to ponder.

Jul 27, 2010

Good point that detecting/averting possible Earth-crossing asteroids is not only in our (short term) best interest but may save future generations yet unborn.

"When that year eventually comes, would they celebrate our efforts with a holiday or a TV mini-series?"

Reruns of 'Meteor', 'Armageddon', 'Deep Impact' with no commercial interruptions!

Jul 27, 2010
This article is not new... This article is based in a paper of january 2009. The new is that they have estimated 'exactly' the possibility of impact.

Jul 27, 2010
Why bother having an option for enlarging the photo/picture? It's all the same: unreadable!

Jul 27, 2010
A back of the envelope calculation if it's density is 2g/cc and it hits at 5km/s the impact will equal 1 gigatonne which is about 10% of annual human energy needs in one year.

It seems we're already giving ourselves slow impact damage 10 times worse each year though it happens continuously instead of in 10 short bursts.


Jul 28, 2010
Even if it was a sure impact we still have until 2060 to decide how to change the orbit without penalty.
And by that time we probably have found some much better way's of changing the orbit.
(think about how much is changed in the last 50 years then you realise it is pointless to invest in it now)

Jul 28, 2010
Completely agreed DaveGee.
Despite all the atrocities that happened, if it weren't for those happening, the world would be in one hell of a state.
Sadly, those wars and the nuclear bombs led to stability for the most part.

Whether or not this stability will last till that date is beyond me, but i would think not simply due to increasing numbers, dwindling space and resources.

Jul 28, 2010

A larger version of the image: http://www.planet...2010.png

For a description of the picture and other images: http://www.planet...0002585/

Jul 28, 2010
172 years from now? School children will probably visit it to study near Earth objects first hand. We'll probably mine it and use it for our own benefit. If we haven't figured out how to stop it by then, we deserve the destruction it brings.

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