Asteroid Set to Destroy the Earth in 2036?

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Will the asteroid which Ukranian scientists discovered, called 2013 TV135, slam into the earth and end all life on our planet in 2036, as the scientists have predicted that it will? Probably not, according to NASA scientists, though it might come very close to the earth in its next approach in 19 years.

The asteroid did come fairly close to the earth on Wednesday, within 4.2 million miles, but in 2036, it’s expected to come even closer, and might — if the Ukranian scientists are correct, and the NASA researchers have their calculations wrong — actually hit our planet. The asteroid is about a quarter-mile wide, and, if it hit us, the explosive force would be the equivalent of 2,500 megatons of TNT. On October 8, it was discovered by astronomers in Ukraine at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory.

Russia, in particular, might have reason for concern, as they have been hit by asteroids two times in the last century. They have been trying to think up plans to deal with a potential strike. Possible ideas range from blowing it up to deflecting it somehow,  but both of these plans require pinpoint precision and everything working out to the letter.

According to St. Petersburg State University’s Professor Leonid Sokolov, the job will involve considering the “various alternatives” and then developing “scenarios and plans of action” after first observing the asteroid’s movements further.

Just this past February 15, an asteroid estimated to be 17 meters in size struck Chelyabinsk, Russia. When it hit, it the blast was the equivalent of a bomb of 440 kilotons. The asteroid wasn’t detected before it hit, and it struck with no advance warning of its approach.

If this or any large asteroid would strike the earth, it would not be pleasant, to say the least. But, according to NASA’s Dr. Paul Abell, the chances of that happening are pretty small. In fact, the chances of 2013 TV135 slamming into the earth are under .0021 percent.

To put it another way, Abell told ABC News that the asteroid “has a one in 48,000 chance of hitting the earth.” As they learn more about the asteroid, Abell believes that the chances will “eventually go down to zero.”

Every day, a lot of space junk hits the earth — a hundred tons of it — but the majority of it is too small to usually draw anybody’s attention. However, larger asteroids, like 2013 TV135, could cause a lot of devastation to the planet, and might potentially cause mass extinctions.

Before Chelyabinsk, the last asteroid to hit Russia was in 1908, when a huge one that struck Tunguska, Siberia, devastated 1000 square miles of the countryside.

We should be better prepared to defend the earth against things such as comets and asteroids, according to Scott Hubbard of Stanford University. While he doesn’t believe that an asteroid the size of 2013 TV135 would end all life on Earth, he does think that such a strike might destroy civilization.

NASA has two programs that search for asteroids that are large enough to potentially destroy the earth, called the Asteroid Initiative and the Near Earth Observation Program, otherwise known as “Spaceguard.”

Abell says that the objects like meteors and asteroids which we really need to be concerned about are “ones that come from the direction of the sun,” because “we can’t see those in the daylight.”

There are more that 10,000 near-earth objects which have so far been discovered, but there are still thousands more that are probably out there which have not yet been discovered. Even if we are safe from this asteroid, that does not mean that a large object that we haven’t yet identified might not strike the earth at some future time.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified 2013 TV135 as “Apophis.” Apophis is a different celestial body. We have regret the error and have updated the story to correctly identify the asteroid. 

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