Asteroid could hit Earth in 172 years

The Yarkovsky effect

Although the orbit of 1999-RQ36 is now well determined, there remains a significant orbital uncertainty because, besides gravity, its path is influenced by the Yarkovsky effect.

Associate Prof. Dr. Charley Lineweaver from the Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo Observatory says the Yarkovsky effect is caused by the heating of rotating bodies.

“The principle is best demonstrated on Earth by the fact that it’s usually hotter in the afternoon, than when the sun is directly overhead at lunchtime,” says Lineweaver.

“This means that the hottest part of the surface isn’t facing the sun, but has rotated 20, 30 or whatever degrees away from perpendicular.

“It’s not much, but on a body the size of a small asteroid, photons emitted from the hottest part of the surface act like a sort of rocket exhaust pushing the object in the opposite direction. Because the object is rotating the opposite direction is not away from the sun but at an angle to it, which over time can provide enough pressure to slightly modify the orbit.”

According to Lineweaver, this provides a degree of uncertainty in orbital projections for the asteroid.

“And it’s that level of uncertainty that’s the real issue for now,” he says.

It could cause a 1000 meter high tsunami and cloud the atmosphere for years, much liked what happened to the dinosaurs. Even if the odds are 1 to 1000, do we have an idea what to do if something like this actually happened. No, we’re too busy messing things up to notice. Either the eventual collision with some object could be avoided by some rich state or person with destroyer technology, or a few rich and/or powerful people will take the escape ship off of earth. Maybe by then we’ll have regular interplanetary communications, but I don’t see that in the near future, so let’s hope it doesn’t happen too soon.

We’re all space beings btw. Earth is in space.


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