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Asteroid 99942 Apophis

NEOs (Near Earth Objects) are
asteroids and comets with
perihelion distance q less than
1.3 AU.
Sunday, April 13, 2036. That's when a
1,000-foot-wide asteroid named
Apophis could hit the Earth with
enough force to obliterate a small
state.

The odds of a collision are 1-in-6,250.
But while that's a long shot at the
racetrack, the stakes are too high for
astronomers to ignore.
Objects this size are thought to hit
Earth about once every 1,000 years.
In 1998, lawmakers formally directed
NASA to identify by 2008 at least 90
percent of the asteroids more than a
kilometer (0.6 mile) wide that orbit the
sun and periodically cross Earth's
path. That search is now more than
three-quarters complete.
In 1998, a year in which the asteroid-
disaster flick Armageddon was the
top-grossing movie worldwide.
Congress held hearings that led to
the creation of a Near Earth
Object Program office at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif.
Scientists estimate there are 1,100
near-Earth asteroids that are larger
than a kilometer wide.

With two years to go, they have found
834, or about 76 percent, of the
estimated total.
Torino
Vinfinity Est. Scale
( H Diam
k ( . (
ImpactProb. m m ( PalermoScale PalermoScale m
/ a k a
(cu s g m (cu (m x
ObjectDesignation YearRange PotentialImpacts m.) ) ) ) m.) ax.) .)

99942 Apophis (2004 MN4) 2036-2037 2 2.2e-05 5.87 19.7 0.250 -2.52 -2.52 0
1994 WR12 2054-2102 134 1.0e-04 9.84 22.4 0.110 -2.96 -3.75 0
1979 XB 2056-2101 3 3.3e-07 24.54 18.5 0.685 -3.07 -3.14 0
2000 SG344 2068-2101 68 1.8e-03 1.37 24.8 0.040 -3.08 -3.43 0
2000 QS7 2053-2053 2 1.3e-06 12.32 19.6 0.420 -3.27 -3.46 0
1998 HJ3 2100-2104 3 2.1e-07 24.09 18.4 0.694 -3.49 -3.69 0
2004 XK3 2029-2104 66 1.7e-04 6.55 24.5 0.040 -3.81 -4.06 0

1994 GK 2051-2071 7 6.1e-05 14.87 24.2 0.050 -3.83 -3.84 0

2000 SB45 2074-2101 83 1.5e-04 7.54 24.3 0.050 -3.86 -4.28 0

2005 YU55 2036-2105 59 4.5e-06 13.58 22.0 0.130 -3.87 -4.92 0

2001 CA21 2020-2073 4 1.7e-08 30.66 18.5 0.678 -3.89 -4.10 0

2005 QK76 2030-2083 9 5.3e-05 19.67 25.2 0.030 -3.89 -4.08 0

2006 CM10 2092-2092 1 1.7e-06 22.34 21.7 0.150 -4.15 -4.15 0

2006 JY26 2073-2106 69 5.4e-03 2.98 28.4 0.007 -4.25 -4.32 0

2005 ED224 2018-2064 6 2.8e-06 25.17 24.0 0.054 -4.27 -4.48 0
There is considerable debate about
how to stop an asteroid or comet
once astronomers have determined it
will pass too close for comfort.

One idea would use a laser
cannon on the moon or atop a
spacecraft to shift the threatening
object's course.
Another involves slamming a
spaceship into the object to nudge it
away.
A slight push a decade or so before
a possible collision would translate
into a wide miss years later.
Astronauts Ed Lu and Stanley Love
published an idea last year for a
"gravitational tractor" to change an
asteroid's orbit. A nuclear-powered
spacecraft would be launched toward
the rock and hover near it, using
gravity to slowly divert the intruder.
A fallback option using readily
available technology involves
detonating a nuclear weapon near
the threat to shove it off course.
It might be the only alternative if an
object is discovered only a few
months before impact.