No, a 13 year old boy did not correct NASA

By Phil Plait | April 16, 2008 1:30 pm

I’ve been getting email about a ridiculous story that a 13 year old boy showed that NASA was wrong about the impact risk from the asteroid Apophis. According to the story, NASA didn’t account for the chance of the asteroid hitting a satellite orbiting the Earth, which would change its course and up the odds of impact. There are about a zillion red flags in the story (no NASA scientist interviewed, the odds went from 1 in 45,000 to 1 in 450, why would impacting a tiny satellite change the course of a 300+ meter wide rock? and more, but I have been too busy traveling or preparing to travel to tackle it.

However, Cosmos4U has the details. I’m glad to say that so many people who emailed me about this were skeptical! This news story is clearly a total fabrication.

Also, there is a thread on Fark about this. Scroll down and keep your eyes open for some pictures people posted. :-)

Hat tip to the bazillion people who told me about this, and the Fark stuff too.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Debunking, NASA, Skepticism

Comments (59)

  1. KC

    BA:

    Go here:

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/apr/HQ_08103_student_asteroid_calculations.html

    Someone at NASA had the good sense to release a press statement that the NEO Project office has not revised their 1 in 45,000 odds of an Earth impact. It’s a good summary of the infoe at Cosmos4U.

    We will now see how quickly the MSM backpeddles from the initial story. I’m not going to hold my breath.

  2. Evan

    I read that story this morning with furled eyebrows. I just knew the BA would point out its error.

  3. darkkosmos

    Well I wonder how the kid feels now :S

  4. When I read this story, I thought it sounded like the most recent episode of “Big Bang Theory….” Minus the hot blond chick.

  5. jarrad

    I LIKE TEH CHEESE.

  6. Catelli

    When I read the story on the news, several aspects of this story jumped out at me. The odds of hitting a satellite, and also the odds of hitting a satellite with sufficient mass (the ISS maybe?) and velocity to alter the orbit have to be much larger than the odds of hitting the earth or the moon.

    And why does hitting a satellite (which satellite, at what orbital velocity and angle of impact?) improve the odds of hitting the earth? Can’t it deflect the asteroid away from the earth?

    It was with those questions in mind that I came here….

  7. glubol

    it’s a shame news agencies forward such BS without any verification. That ‘news’ is all over the internet now and people will take it for granted no matter what.

  8. Ian

    I agree that the factor-of-100 difference in the overall probability is clearly erroneous, because the chance of Apophis actually hitting a satellite in 2029 has got to be much smaller than 1 in 45000; it couldn’t have a significant effect on the probability of an Earth impact even if one were guaranteed in the hypothetical event of a satellite collision.

    But I’m not entirely convinced by the blanket statement that if Apophis does hit a satellite in 2029, it doesn’t change the odds of an Earth impact in 2036. Even if the satellite is only a millionth the mass of Apophis, couldn’t that still significantly affect the position of Apophis 7 years down the road?

  9. The popular tech podcast “Buzz Out Loud” at CNET had a freak-out about this too. Phil, you should drop them a voicemail for tomorrow’s correction.

  10. The popular tech podcast (Buzz Out Loud) had a freak-out today about this too. Phil, you should drop them a voicemail for tomorrow’s correction.

  11. Ian

    So I went and did some actual back-of-the-envelope math. If we assume Apophis has a million times the mass of the satellite, that the collision is head-on at a speed of 4.3 km/s (roughly the orbital speed of the Earth minus that of Apophis, plus the orbital speed of the satellite), and that all of the satellite’s momentum is transferred to Apophis, then Apophis would be slowed in its orbit by about 4.3 mm/s. I don’t know enough about calculating orbits to correctly propagate that change 7 years into the future, but the naive approach of multiplying 4.3 mm/s over 7 years results in a difference of about 950 km in the asteroid’s position: significant, but not enough to bring it close enough for an impact.

  12. Jason W

    I saw this on Yahoo news this morning and figured it’d be mentioned here eventually. I’ve learned not to trust things I read on Yahoo with anything less than a block of salt at this point, anyway, but it’s good to see the correction. Thanks, BA.

  13. Ian

    I think I must have done something wrong, because I realize that 4.3 km/s is much too small for a head-on collision. The velocity of the satellite relative to the earth is 3 km/s, which leaves only 1.3 km/s for the asteroid, which must have a greater speed than the escape velocity of 4.7 km/s.

    Oh well, I’m giving up.

  14. Ian

    Forgot to account for the potential energy of the asteroid with respect to the earth. That turns out to roughly double the collision speed and hence the momentum transferred: 8.6 mm/s instead of 4.3 mm/s. Okay, now I’m done with this.

  15. Nic

    I don’t know much about physics, but you’d have to be pretty retarded to hold any stock in that rumor.

    A 300m+ wide roid would pretty much just pass through a somewhat fragile hulk of metal. Not to mention the odds of it actually hitting one.

    Creationists have done more homework than this one.

  16. Mark Martin

    Reminds me of when Deep Impact was about to smack into the comet a few years ago. Some character on Usenet insisted that the impactor could inadvertently send the comet careening wildly off course,… and therefore almost certainly exactly and precisely right toward Earth.

  17. gar

    I just got an e-mail from NASA debunking the story. I thought “gosh, would anyone take this seriously enough that NASA would have to send out a press release?” I came here to see if BA had anything about it, and sure enough. I guess it DID warrant a press release.

  18. Ken

    Im really disappointed that a kid can get worldwide fame for something so stupid as this. I mean, star wars kid or something I can understand. But a factual error picked up this noisily? How anti-intellectual do we have to be that this gets airtime? Will we have to stop and fact check whether space shuttles move faster than the speed of light as well?

  19. dhawk

    I was following the fark comments for awhile, and some defended the prediction that if it did hit Earth, it would hit the Atlantic Ocean. Sounded like bs to me, but I suppose it could be possible if we can measure its speed several orders of magnitude more precisely than its trajectory. Or it may just have to do with how the errors propagate. I believe small perturbations in its orbit would propagate as x^2 for distance, but as x for projected position.

    Anyone have any info on this?

  20. JB of Brisbane

    From what I have read in my own city’s daily newspaper, I have come to the following conclusion: Those who are into science and logical thought go to university to do Engineering, Medicine, Law, etc. Those who are not, do Journalism. Or am I being unfair and sweepingly general?

  21. The dumbness of the article cannot be overstated. Here’s a particularly stupid bit from the Sydney Morning Herald:

    Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with Earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

    The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, while creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.

    Email sent to the SMH to point out their lack of fact checking.

  22. I remember that Apophis’s first time in the limelight, when the impact probability was briefly calculated to be relatively large, was coincidentally in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, with its terrible human toll. At the time I looked up some information to try to figure out what the damage would be if it hit the earth, and the best I could figure out was that it might, at worst, be… comparable to the Indian Ocean tsunami. Which had just actually happened.

    At that point I stopped worrying about some small probability of a hit in 2029 or 2036 so much.

  23. Quiet Desperation

    It’s too little too late. It was reported on the morning news here on several radio stations in Los Angeles. Another lie to weave into the grand tapestry of bull**** that comprises most people’s view of the world. :-(

    But that’s how our mighty free media works. Toss out the same bit of news as everyone else as fast as possible, and never EVER *EVER* fact check.

    Here’s a quick test: ask anyone older than 35 if they know about the time George Bush the Senior, when he was campaigning for President in 1988, was amazed at a bar code scanner at a supermarket, thus showing how out of touch he was with the common man. I’ll bet you they “know” that happened.

    (Reality: he was at a National Grocer’s convention, and he was mildly impressed by a new scanner that could read a really mangled and crushed UPC code.)

  24. Quiet Desperation

    Those who are into science and logical thought go to university to do Engineering, Medicine, Law, etc. Those who are not, do Journalism. Or am I being unfair and sweepingly general?

    You are being unfair and sweepingly general.

    The real idiots go into politics. ;-)

    And I’d really question the idea that the legal profession is the home of much logical thought. It also seems to attract a lot of bullies.

  25. A couple of hours after I emailed the Sydney Morning Herald to point out that their article was inaccurate they replied to say they have amended the article with a link to NASA’s press release disputing the story:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/science/schoolboy-spares-nasas-blushes/2008/04/16/1208025229770.html

    Kudos to the SMH.

  26. A couple of hours after I emailed the Sydney Morning Herald to point out that their article was inaccurate they replied to say they have amended the article with a link to NASA’s press release disputing the story:

    Link to SMH story

    Kudos to the SMH.

  27. Sorry about the double post. Got the regex error.

  28. JCF

    Oh well… when we read “news” like this, we must remember that 50% of the population has below average intelligence.

  29. Laguna2

    Same old, same old….
    Good old german tabloid BILD invents/blows up/exaggerates a story and all other media copy it without thinking for a second.
    Even though BILD is know to spread more lies than any politician or TV commercial. Poor press, they will never learn.

  30. While the matter has now been resolved and the student’s factors don’t apply, it still shows us how we cast some doubt towards NASA, even though they’re right on this one.
    John — http://www.moonposter.ie

  31. Richie

    I think this list sums it up nicely:

    NASA’s calculation of Apophis colliding with Earth: 1:45,000
    Kids’ calculation of Apophis colliding with Earth: 1:450
    Chance the Media screwed the story: 1:1
    Chance they’ll do it again next week: 1:1

    Chance of SG-1 taking out Apophis – Already happened
    (Had to sneak a SG ref in here somewhere)

  32. Just Al

    Well, of course the kid was all wet! The idea of hitting a satellite and deflecting onto a collision course is ludicrous. The excessive amount of orbital debris we have up there would bring any asteroid to a screeching halt.

    (Well, not really, “In space, no one can hear you screech”)

    In fact, a few more little bits and we’ve solved the ozone problem with a debris umbrella. Kudos to the US Government [there's a line you don't see every day] for contributing to the shield by dispersing those concentrated lumps into a more even layer through the ingenious use of missiles!

    In all seriousness, I just love the idea that the asteroid could pass close enough to us to smack a satellite in the first place. I bet no one calculated the chances of hitting kites, though. Ah ha! Didn’t think of that, did you?

  33. Maybe Apophis will graze one of the Directv satellites and correct the intermittent signal problem I have at home. It could happen!

  34. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,ACK!,,,BS too deep,,,can’t,,, keep,,, swimming,,,

    It’s been my experience that people who are unable to do a simple bit of differential calculus end up going into journalism, where words can incite a large increase in income w/o the necessity to think.

    GAry 7

  35. Robert

    # Richie wrote
    NASA’s calculation of Apophis colliding with Earth: 1:45,000
    Kids’ calculation of Apophis colliding with Earth: 1:450
    Chance the Media screwed the story: 1:1
    Chance they’ll do it again next week: 1:1

    Me writes:
    Chance of kid being bullied at school yesterday 1:1
    Chance of kid being bullied at school today 1:1
    Chance of kid being bullied at school tomorrow 1:1

  36. I saw this on Yahoo yesterday. No retraction as far as I can see. I thought the story was fishy from the start, because even if a collision with a geosynchronous satellite could make a difference, the exact change to the impact probability depends enormously on the delta-v. At a minimum, the satellites come in a wide range of masses, so even if we assume they all have comparable orbital velocities, the delta-v from a collision varies a lot.

  37. skepticalfoul

    Wow, that Fark thread was more torturous than usual…

    I mean, Yes, I read it all and I’m just… brain hurts… Internet arguments over mathematical errors… while re-calculating an impossibility…. ow.

  38. Kristin

    “The dumbness of the article cannot be overstated. Here’s a particularly stupid bit from the Sydney Morning Herald:

    Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with Earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

    The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, while creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.

    Email sent to the SMH to point out their lack of fact checking.”

    The exact quote – only translated – was used in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten (online edition) yesterday as well. When it comes to the science section, the media sure holds a leading position in the area of quote-snatching-minus-fact-checking expertise, instead of actual inquisitive journalism. The comments on the “story” were a 2:1 mix of the numerologist doomsday lovers (pointing out the recurrence of the number 13, the Mayan 2012 prophecy, global warming and whatnot) and the relatively semi-interested sane people yawning and shrugging, alternatively joking it off.

    On the good side, the same newspaper actually bothered to put up the updated story later, so good for them on that, I say. I just hope that the same people who read the first article have read the update too (without thinking that NASA tried to cover things up).

  39. Will. M

    A “thirteen year old boy…” Remind anyone about the “Boy Scout” who supposedly discovered the theory of plate tectonics?

  40. @ Ian
    If Apophis travelling at 30.75 km/s were to collide head on with the hubble, at 7.57 km/s in the opposite direction, and it was an inelastic collision, Apophis would be slowed by 2 cm/s. This would produce a very slight orbital change, but not nearly as great as the gravitational influence of Earth.
    A glancing blow, or a smaller satellite, would produce a considerably smaller change.

  41. Michael Welford

    Hi Budget Astronomer. If you’re still paying attention, work out the velocity change to Apophis if it collides with a satellite which creates an impact crater and ejects 100 times its own mass in the process.

    Hi Ian. If you’re still paying attention, you might want to work out, on the back of your envelope, the reverse slingshot effect that comes from Apophis undergoing an impulse so deep in Earths gravity field. This would magnify the velocity change to Apophis. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the slingshot effect. Then if you have a really big envelope you can work out whether slowing down Apophis will cause it to fall into a lower solar orbit and bring it back to Earth earlier rather than later.

    Hi Phil. Remember when you were commenting on that Iapetus thread, and it occured to you that ejecta would greatly amplify the momentum change from a collision, and then you changed your mind.
    Well, you really were right the first time. And you gave me the idea that shows that the energetics of that german kids theory works.

    The other part of NASAs case against the kid, is the claim that Apophis will certainly avoid the geosynchronous satellites. I’m beginning to wonder how secure that claim is.

  42. Gary Ansorge

    Umm, Apophis,,,,raw material for power sats and space colonies. So, any chance we could trap it in a geosync orbit???

    GAry 7

  43. Rocketman

    I followed Phil’s link to the Fark thread, and I was really impressed at how stupid all the posts were. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dumber group online or elsewhere. I couldn’t believe so many people fell for such an obvious hoax. The 1/45000 to 1/450 shift should have been enough to convince anyone who finished high school that it was nonsense. From an even simpler point of view, nothing about the article checked out! NASA was corrected but not contacted? The effect of a collision with an unknown body has a well defined effect?

    I suppose people believed it because it was in print. Hell, 15% of Americans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim now, and last time I saw a poll on it a third of them still believed that the former dictator of Iraq both masterminded the 9/11 attacks and was deeply involved in an advanced nuclear weapons program when George W Bush invaded.

    People need to learn to be skeptics, not just of whackos, but of mainstream news media. Most of what’s said is skewed. It may be obvious to a lot of us, but apparently not to enough of us.

  44. Mark Martin

    Michael Welford,

    How about if you do all the math and show everyone how it’s done? Show us all how the German kid has used a dynamical algorithm which taps into a database of literally thousands of gravitating bodies in this solar system. Please show this, because that’s what NASA uses to numerically calculate the future trajectories of orbiting bodies.

    And what if a collision ejects 100 times the mass of the satellite? Is that number alone enough to calculate an impulse? No, because it doesn’t tell the velocity of the ejecta.

  45. Michael Welford

    Hello Mark Martin,

    Well, I posted in haste and didn’t say what I wanted to say. I wasn’t trying to show that the kid was right. I was trying to show that NASA was wrong.

    The more I look into the matter the more it seems that NASAs NEO guys didn’t look into the physics of crater formation or appreciate that a collision with a small object could significantly effect Apophis’ orbit. Crater formation has been closely studied for many years and I’m sure that over the next few days NASA will have the crater guys explain the basics of the subject to the NEO guys.

    I downloaded the preprint of the paper “Predicting the Earth encounters of (99942) Apophis” from Icarus. If you look at pages 2 and 3 you discover that the retroactive prediction of the Apophis orbit model didn’t match the “precovery” observations of Apophis. Faced with a conflict between theory and observation they adjusted the observations to fit the theory.

    So I have to doubt whether the orbital projections are anywhere near is accurate is NASA claims.

    Have a nice weekend Mark.

  46. Michael Welford

    Oops.

    Again I didn’t say what I meant. I didn’t download the paper from the journal Icarus. I downloaded from NASA.

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/apophis/

  47. Michael Welford

    Okay Mark Martin. I see what you’re getting at. Due to energy conservation the ejecta can’t go faster than the square root of the ratio of ejecta mass to impactor mass times the impact speed. So my 100x example could only deliver at most 10x the impulse of of a pure inelastic collision. Even with a ratio of thousands to one, we wouldn’t get a change bigger than the one in the footnote to the web page I reference above. My problem was that I was trying to react the little satellite against the whole asteroid instead just the ejecta. So sloppy.

    Well that’s embarassing. I’ll take what meager comfort I can from the fact some NASA partizans far more reputable than I am, have been sloppier than me. ( I’m not referring to anyone on this site. )

    And that bit about retroactively changing the data still looks fishy to me.

  48. Steven C Raine

    Re: [.....] Schoolboy challenges NASA ….Or maybe not.?
    From: on behalf of Steven Charles Raine
    Sent: Saturday, 19 April 2008 3:45:24 PM
    To: ….

    Schoolboy challenges NASA ….? Or maybe not. Interesting urban legend but it seems that may be all this is :

    *****

    NEWS RELEASE: 2008-063 April 16, 2008
    NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

    PASADENA, Calif. — The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

    This student’s conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid’s close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote. Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

    NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

    For more information, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov .
    For more information about JPL on the Internet, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov . For information about NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov .

    *****

    There’s also a blog article and discussion of this on the ‘Bad Astronomy’ website by noted astronomer, “bad science” debunker & author, Dr Phil Plait. See :

    http://www.badastronomy.com

    (I think I’ve got that web link right – my apologies if not. A web search should find it pretty easily.)

    Hope this is enlightening & best regards :

    StevoR

    “Earth’s windiest location is Cape Farewell, Greenland, where gale winds blow 16 % of the time.”
    - NASA e-newsletter : “New Atlases use NASA data to chart ocean winds”, 2008 April 17th.
    ——————————————————————-

  49. Steven C Raine

    Just forwarded this toanother online group thought I’d let ya’ll know:

    ***

    Schoolboy challenges NASA ….? Or maybe not. Interesting urban legend but it seems that may be all this is :

    *****

    NEWS RELEASE: 2008-063 April 16, 2008
    NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

    PASADENA, Calif. — The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

    This student’s conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid’s close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote. Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

    NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

    For more information, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov .
    For more information about JPL on the Internet, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov . For information about NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov .

    *****

    There’s also a blog article and discussion of this on the ‘Bad Astronomy’ website by noted astronomer, “bad science” debunker & author, Dr Phil Plait. See :

    http://www.badastronomy.com

    (I think I’ve got that web link right – my apologies if not. A web search should find it pretty easily.)

    Hope this is enlightening & best regards :

    StevoR
    ——————————————————————-
    “Earth’s windiest location is Cape Farewell, Greenland, where gale winds blow 16 % of the time.”
    - NASA e-newsletter : “New Atlases use NASA data to chart ocean winds”, 2008 April 17th.

  50. Steven C Raine

    Just forwarded this to another online group thought I’d let ya’ll know:

    ******

    Schoolboy challenges NASA ….? Or maybe not. Interesting urban legend but it seems that may be all this is :

    NEWS RELEASE: 2008-063 April 16, 2008
    NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

    PASADENA, Calif. — The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

    This student’s conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid’s close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote. Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

    NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

    For more information, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov

    For more information about JPL on the Internet, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov . For information about NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov .

    *****

    There’s also a blog article and discussion of this on the ‘Bad Astronomy’ website by noted astronomer, “bad science” debunker & author, Dr Phil Plait. See : http://www.badastronomy.com

    (I think I’ve got that web link right – my apologies if not. A web search should find it pretty easily.)

    Hope this is enlightening & best regards :

    StevoR
    ——————————————————————-
    “Earth’s windiest location is Cape Farewell, Greenland, where gale winds blow 16 % of the time.”
    - NASA e-newsletter : “New Atlases use NASA data to chart ocean winds”, 2008 April 17th.

  51. StevoR

    Just forwarded this to another online group thought I’d let ya’ll know:

    ******

    Schoolboy challenges NASA ….? Or maybe not. Interesting urban legend but it seems that may be all this is :

    NEWS RELEASE: 2008-063 April 16, 2008

    NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

    PASADENA, Calif. — The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

    This student’s conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid’s close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote. Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

    NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

    For more information, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov

    For more information about JPL on the Internet, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov . For information about NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov .

    ****

    There’s also a blog article and discussion of this on the ‘Bad Astronomy’ website by noted astronomer, “bad science” debunker & author, Dr Phil Plait. See : http://www.badastronomy.com

    (I think I’ve got that web link right – my apologies if not. A web search should find it pretty easily.)

    Hope this is enlightening & best regards :

    StevoR
    —————————————————

    “Earth’s windiest location is Cape Farewell, Greenland, where gale winds blow 16 % of the time.”
    - NASA e-newsletter : “New Atlases use NASA data to chart ocean winds”, 2008 April 17th.

  52. StevoR

    Just forwarded this to another online group thought I’d let ya’ll know:

    ******

    Schoolboy challenges NASA ….? Or maybe not. Interesting urban legend but it seems that may be all this is :

    NEWS RELEASE: 2008-063 April 16, 2008

    NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

    PASADENA, Calif. — The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

    This student’s conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid’s close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote. Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

    NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

    For more information, visit http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov

    For more information about JPL on the Internet, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov . For information about NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov .

    ****

    There’s also a blog article and discussion of this on the ‘Bad Astronomy’ website by noted astronomer, “bad science” debunker & author, Dr Phil Plait. See : http://www.badastronomy.com

    (I think I’ve got that web link right – my apologies if not. A web search should find it pretty easily.)

    Hope this is enlightening & best regards :

    StevoR
    —————————————————

    “Earth’s windiest location is Cape Farewell, Greenland, where gale winds blow 16 % of the time.”
    - NASA e-newsletter : “New Atlases use NASA data to chart ocean winds”, 2008 April 17th.

  53. Michael Welford

    Wait! Wait!

    What if the kid heard someone associated with ESA or NASA say that Apophis wouldn’t be signifcantly affected by satellite collision. Then he correctly calculates that could it end up displaced by a few thousand kilometers after seven years. So then he thinks “Why this could be the difference a near miss and Caracas turned into a smouldering crater. Thats significant!!”

    Meanwhile NASA has its own definition of significance. They couldn’t care less about Caracas! For them insignificant means much smaller than the margin of error in their calculations.

    So anyway, when someone associated ESA or NASA confirms to the kid that his numbers are right he thinks he’s found something new. He submits it to a science fair. They confirm his calculations. He wins a prize. He gets in the newspapers.

    NASA overreacts wildly at the hint that they got something wrong. And here we are. All because NASA doesn’t know the meaning of the word significant.

    That’s my theory. Does anybody know what was in the kids actual contest entry?

  54. StevoR

    D’oh! D’oh! D’oh!

    Sorry, folks – I kept getting an error message (a goobledegook weird
    one actually), & I thought it hadn’t sent but turns it out, it had …

    My apologies. :-(

  55. That’s quite an honor, when someone else makes you into a demotivator and then assumes everyone will recognize you!

  56. The fact that these journalists are still journalists today, appalls me. But such are the standards of modern jounalism. Never trust the news.

  57. pft as if

    The writer of this article was very arrogant to think a 13 year old child couldn’t be right. That’s very narrowminded of you. There are such things as prodigies.I dislike how some adult are unwilling to admit children have the potential be more intelligent than they. I am more than willing to admit children have the potential to be more intelligent than I or any other adults.

  58. bob

    me is neo notbob

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