One in Sixty

USATODAY.com – Asteroid has 1-in-60ish chance of Earth hit

2004 MN4 is now being tracked very carefully by many astronomers around the world, and we continue to update our risk analysis for this object. Today’s impact monitoring results indicate that the impact probability for April 13, 2029 has risen to about 1.6%, which for an object of this size corresponds to a rating of 4 on the ten-point Torino Scale. Nevertheless, the odds against impact are still high, about 60 to 1, meaning that there is a better than 98% chance that new data in the coming days, weeks, and months will rule out any possibility of impact in 2029.”

60 to 1? I’ve seen better odds from things like surviving tropical diseases and surgery!

I suppose what was most interesting to me about the information surrounding this event was learning about the Torino Scale. This scale is graded 0 through 10, with our asteroid event mentioned above being a 4. This is the first time a 4 has ever been issued. Let’s see what a 4 is defined as on the Torino Scale:

A close encounter, with a 1% or greater chance of a collision capable of causing regional devistation

OK. Granted that this number is pretty low on the totem pole – er – Torino Scale, we are talking about regional devistation. On this scale, that is right between “localized destruction” (which doesn’t sound nice) and “global catastrophe” (which definitely would suck.)

but really, the guys to be concerned about, where you should probably finally go buy that power boat you always wanted, eat unlimited quantities of chocolate, and start confessing for your sins, are levels 8, 9, and 10. With an 8, a collision somewhere is certain, so you might just want to find out where on earth the impact will be and see about moving. A 9 is guaranteed regional devastation. In this case, switch countries, switch continents, or better yet – switch hemispheres. A perfect 10, the kind they talked about in the 1998 film Armageddon, is where pretty much all you can do is bend over, stick your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.

Well in reality, the chance of impact from Asteroid 2004 MN4 is pretty low. At the very least, this will be a close encounter and probably a great opportunity for some scientific research. And perhaps some good amateur astronomy too? It’s almost a shame we have to wait 25 years.