Boy corrects Nasa's asteroid figures

A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected Nasa’s estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with the Earth, a German newspaper reported on Tuesday, after spotting the boffins had miscalculated.

Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam to calculate that there is a one-in-450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.

Nasa had previously estimated the chances at only one in 45 000, but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency, that the young whizz kid had got it right.

The schoolboy took into consideration the risk of Apophis running into one or more of the 40 000 satellites orbiting Earth during its path close to the planet on April 13 2029.

Those satellites travel at 3,07km a second, at up to 35 880km above the Earth—and the Apophis asteroid will pass by the planet at a distance of 32 500km.

If the asteroid strikes a satellite in 2029, that will change its trajectory and make it hit the Earth on its next orbit in 2036.

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

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

The 13-year-old made his discovery as part of a regional science competition for which he submitted a project entitled: “Apophis: The killer asteroid.”—AFP

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