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Monday, March 05, 2007

 

Tag! You're It!

Apophis (the asteroid, not the character from Stargate) will make a near pass to Earth in 2029.

So what you say? Well, if it passes through a certain region of space, the so-called key-hole, during this approach it could be deflected onto an orbit that will lead to a "high" (one in a thousand) probability of Earth impact in 2036. If you are still around in 2036, ths could ruin your whole day.

Of course if we knew Apophis's orbit in more detail, we could get a better idea of whether it will go through the Keyhole, and give us more time to prepare.

The Planetary Society is running a competition to design a mission to "Tag" Apophis with some sort of marker or transponder so that we can measure its orbit more precisely and allow a deflection mission to be started in 2017. The conditions of entry are here. There is a $50,ooo US prize, and who knows, you just might get to save the world!

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