Asteroid Apophis could crash in the Far East


Asteroids are no longer cinematic horror story. They begin to show serious interest not only to scientists, but also the military and politics. So, the other day at the talks on missile defense Russia took the initiative entitled "Strategic Defense of the Earth." Global project provides "a combination of air, missile and space defense into one." This system not only invited to send against missiles as possible threats against Earth, coming from space — asteroids and comet fragments (see "KP" for 18/10/2011 and online In Roskosmos prepares to discuss another project to prevent the collision of Earth with a celestial body: to create a spacecraft with a special purpose, which would avoid a meeting. A State Rocket Center Academician VP Makeev began developing space-based system for the destruction threatening us asteroids.

Why is everyone so outright alarmed? Where to wait for trouble? And you have time to save the Earth in the event of a disaster? These are the questions we answered sAveda department of physics of stellar systems of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Professor of Moscow State University. MV University Oleg Malkov.

— Oleg, there is something to fear?

— Unfortunately, yes. Mankind has finally realized that the problem of asteroids and comets to trouble not only at the level of scientists and academia. Therefore, this task took and the UN. We realized that we know how much we do not know. Flies around the Earth about 20,000 potentially hazardous very large — more than 140 meters in diameter — objects. A phone like the Tunguska diameter of 30 meters — even more: 200 000. But we are "in your face" know only a thousand. It turns out that we discovered only 10 percent of all the things that can cause harm to the planet.

— But they are also, according to the craters are rare with the Earth?

— Yes, it is. If the body type of the Tunguska has a chance to meet with the Earth about once in 250 years, an asteroid the size of 10 kilometers will fall to Earth about once every 100 million years. But this will be the end of our civilization.

— Today that threatens us?

— Asteroid Apophis. It was opened in 2004. Its convergence with the Earth will occur in 2029, the year. Fortunately, the small scale: the diameter of almost two hundred meters.

— With him face?

— Not yet. But it will be close enough — 36 thousand kilometers. Almost at the same distance to the geostationary orbit, where the satellites television. But then Apophis will return. And from that, it will be held in 2029-m, how to change its orbit, we will know: at its next pass in 2036 will be a collision with the Earth or not?

— Maybe the sensor during this time he put it?

— That's it! We hope that will be organized space mission, in which Russia will take a leading part to put the beacon. Now we can only see it through a telescope.

Oleg Malkov.
Oleg Malkov.


— As a beacon can be placed on an asteroid?

— We have a number of successful missions to small bodies of the solar system. When, in 1986, flew by Halley's Comet, then it was sent a flotilla of spacecraft, in particular, our station — "Vega 1" and "Vega-2." In 2005, a space mission, which was called "Deep Impact" (English Deep Impact), then NASA spacecraft dedicated to studying the comet Tempel 1, the first ever dropped a comet probe "Impactor" (copper ingot). He rammed her face, causing a release of cometary matter of about 10 tons. So was taken analysis of cometary matter. So this is not exactly a new thing for us — to fly up to space the body and put it on the radio beacon.

— But hurry up would probably be before the year 2029?

— Of course, the space mission to the asteroid Apophis is scheduled for 2018. It is being developed jointly by the Institute of Astronomy, Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences and the NPO. Lavochkin.

— If the 2029-m asteroid will fly so close, the Earth "wing" accidentally touches?

— No. It can only affect satellites, for example, to remove them from orbit. But do not knock: the satellites are very small. Then just stay without television, and then only for a short time. Mobile telephony and Internet will remain intact, as the towers and the network are in the world. But if by 2029 will be "planted" in geostationary orbit, and then they can be damaged.

— And if the 2036-m Apophis still fall to Earth, then where?

— This may be the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean, Central America, and the Far East to the Urals.

— Not reach to Moscow?

— No. But if they fall on the land, then it is mainly Russian. Therefore, efforts will mainly be ours. But on the other hand, if Apophis will crash into the ocean, there will be a tsunami. And then tragedy enough for all. Will be amazed at all the riparian countries at once.

— Asteroid lead to the end of the world?

— No, that's you! It will be a regional disaster. Will hit an area of, say, France. Apophis will not drop even a nuclear winter.

— Calm down! France, of course, sorry. Yet it is not so bad.

Does not matter if the taiga falls. But even then, I think, a couple of large Russian cities, we can lose.


— In order not to lose neither our city nor France, what can be done?

— All conceivable methods to combat asteroid threat can be divided into two groups: the withdrawal and destruction. If we know of the existence of the body for decades before the meeting, it is preferable to withdrawal of the body from orbit. Even minor changes in its direction will cause the body whistles past the Earth.

— How to move the "stone" from orbit?

— You can put it on a solid engine and make it work. Let it be thin, but if it will work for decades, the body little by little come to this orbit. And then the asteroid will pass by the Earth. You can put a solar sail, and then under the influence of solar energy, too, can take away the body of orbit. Or — to use the "gravity tractor". We are launching the spacecraft. He goes into orbit around the asteroid with the engine running. And spacecraft out of orbit, now together, and drags for an asteroid. But these projects should begin withdrawal now, because by requiring at least ten years.

Possible areas of the asteroid.
Possible areas of the asteroid.

— And then in 2029 we will have only seven years. So, the plan is out of date?

— Most likely, yes. Divert too late. Need for him Jahan. But, of course, will not like the movie "Asteroid", where Bruce Willis saves the Earth. There are some estimates that say about the danger of such an event. Here let us blow up — and the asteroid pulverize into small fragments. Of course it will not dust, and large pieces. And what do we get? Instead of one large body in orbit incur large shrapnel at the same speed, beat there, only then will hit a much larger area. Moreover, the calculations show that under certain conditions, this medley, flying past the Earth picks from the Earth and engage for an atmosphere. Thus, our planet will be left without air. And there will be common kranty. Therefore must be well calculated to all the pieces flew off to the side or fragmented into dust.

— Asteroid will explode nuclear warheads?

— That's the thing you have to crush them, but there is an international agreement on non-deployment of nuclear weapons in space. Without this agreement, we overcome this method to deal with Apophis can not yet.


On board the "trap" has nuclear weapons?

On the space-based system to destroy the asteroid, which is being developed in the State Rocket Center Academician VP Serbin, told us head Zvenigorod Observatory Institute of Astronomy, Candidate of Sciences Sergei Barabanov.

— Sergei, indeed, there is a project space-based system, which will consist of two spacecraft — "Caissa" and "trap"?

— Yes, such a system is developed. And yet at the level of elaborations. These works have not funded earmarked. Working through internal funds. The system consists of a reconnaissance unit and the unit of the interceptor. One looks that the "beast", the other should play a reaction.

— On board the "trap" will be a nuclear weapon?

— Yes.

— What laws to prohibit the withdrawal of nuclear weapons in space?

— The system is at the level of theoretical studies. Therefore, these restrictions have not yet even discussed.

— "Caissa" and "trap" exist only in drawings?

— Yes. Only on paper.

— A similar project is in other countries? Or are we ahead of the rest?

— Who will tell the secrets? Nuclear weapons — something closed. Americans about the explosion of a space body directed the movie "Asteroid". And we are preparing a theoretical project. After all, when the asteroid approaching the Earth, there would no longer be up to politeness. Have to defend themselves by any means. Implicitly refers to the act of God. As for output, and maintain nuclear weapons in orbit — it was not and never will be.

— How much should a nuclear charge to destroy the body?

— This question is being worked in the nuclear center in Snezhinsk. Model calculations are carried out: which is better — on the surface or slightly deepened blow? Or something else? Amount of explosive depends. First, we need to know how far you can make an explosion. Secondly, you must know — blow for what purpose: to destroy or reject the direction of movement. Think over the question of how to not become worse by scattering of small fragments, and that itself a nuclear warhead earthlings not hurt. And the composition of these bodies are very diverse: be a pile of stones, and can — icy bodies. Therefore, the necessary first scout who fly, see what it is. And then we will choose the method and amount of explosive.

Click to enlarge. Graphics Nikita silane.

10 largest known impact craters on Earth

1. Bermuda, Atlantic Ocean. Diameter — 1250 km. Many attribute devilry that is going on in the Bermuda Triangle-Soviet, it was the influence of a meteorite.

2. Ontong Java, the Pacific Ocean. Diameter — 1200 km. This underwater crater virtually unstudied. It was produced more than 100,000 years ago.

3. Lasse Antiles. Scientists believe that most of the Caribbean — crater 950 km in diameter.

4. Bangui, Central Africa. Diameter — 810 km, age — about 540 million years.

5. Ili-Balkhash, Central Asia. Diameter — 720 km.

6. Urals, Russia. Diameter — 500 km. Many researchers believe that the bowels of the Urals as rich in precious metals because of the fall of a giant meteorite.

7. Chesterfield, Canada. Diameter — 440 km.

8. Southern Caspian, Caspian Sea. Diameter — 400 km. Even Galileo believed that the Caspian Sea was formed due to the fall of a giant meteorite.

9. Vredefort, South Africa. Diameter — 300 km, age — about 2 billion years. In the fall there was an explosion, energy is comparable to the 1.4 billion kilotons of TNT.

10. Chicxulub, south of the North American continent. Diameter — 180 km, age — 65.2 million years. There is a version that is the crater of a meteorite that killed the dinosaurs.

Svetlana Kuzina

What asteroid threat to Earth?

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