Friday, 21 September 2012

Trackling Apophis asteroid: Hyderabad Gitam campus students come out with an alternative scientific model to destroy Apophis, the asteroid likely to hit the Earth in 2036

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A group of city students has come out with an
alternative scientific model to destroy Apophis, the asteroid likely
to hit the Earth in the next three decades.

Apophis, discovered on June 19, 2004 will come closer to the earth in
2029 and may hit the human planet on April 13, 2036. If this happens,
there will be no civilization on the earth. Scientists have proposed a
number of theories on protecting the earth from a possible Apophis
impact. They are largely based on “destruction” of Apophis using
nuclear energy and other sources and “delaying” the hitting time. Both
the models are impractical and even if possible involve huge
expenditure.

The model proposed by students of Gitam University, Hyderabad campus,
however uses “solar focusing energy” to reduce the mass of the
asteroid and thereby deflect it towards the sun. The model was
presented at a National Students Space Challenge competition held at
the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

The Gitam team comprised engineering students S Sai, M Sai Prakash
Reddy, N Sateesh Kumar, L Rohith Kumar Reddy and A Girdhar Reddy.

“Our model initially vaporizes the outer layers of the asteroid by
using solar focused energy to change its mass. Vaporization changes
the mass of the asteroid. It is then expose to the high temperature
solar radiation produced by specially designed “concentrators”, which
helps in increasing the speed of rotation of the asteroid. This
changes its orbit through which we can manage it from colliding with
the earth. We have designed by taking the safety of the earth as the
top most priority. This model is also economical and is affordable to
adopt,” the students told this correspondent.

Referring to popular methods like destruction of the asteroid, they
said, “Destruction of asteroid through fragmentation cannot solve the
problem because the fragmented parts may fall on different locations.
In the other model called the delay method, it avoids the collision
for a certain time but it may collide at some other time. It is not
economical”.

They said their alternative method, which proposes solar focusing
energy technique is based on Yarkovsky effect. By using this method,
scientists can vaporize the asteroid or change the trajectory of its
path.

According to the students’ model, there is requirement of space
exploration satellite consisting of solar panels and concentric
collectors. The space satellite will be sent towards the asteroid. The
solar panel and concentric panels on the satellite receive energy from
the sun and reduce the mass of the asteroid. The satellite starts
rotating round Apophis at an angle of 42 degrees, which is the angle
of rotation of the asteroid.

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