How precise is Apophis orbit and what is probability of its collision with the Earth in 2036-2037?About the paper
The nearest in time close approach of potentially hazardous asteroid (99942) Apophis with the Earth will take place on April 13, 2029, when the minimum distance of the asteroid from the Earth’s center will be as small as 38 000 km. Such a close approach will result in substantial transformation of the asteroid’s orbit. The value of the perturbations depends on the minimum distance between the bodies during the approach. Among possible transformations of the orbit are those which result in new dangerous approaches and even in probable Apophis collisions with the Earth starting from 2036. At present, at least four solutions are known for the Apophis orbit which were obtained using all radar and most of available optical observations. The procedures of assigning weights to conditional equations and the models of the asteroid’s motion have differed to some extent when finding these solutions. Of considerable interest is the comparison of the found orbital parameters with the estimates of their accuracy, since small distinctions in their values result in considerable distinctions in the forecast of Apophis’ motion after 2029 and beyond. It is shown in the paper that the estimates of the probability of an Apophis collision with the Earth in 2036 differ by some orders of magnitude, according to various solutions. The influence of factors which were disregarded in the models of motion even more increases the uncertainty in forecasting the motion after 2029. More accurate forecasting can be achieved as a result of additional optical and, to a greater extent, a series of radar observations in 2013 and then in 2020–2021, and/or as a result of processing radio signals of the transmitter delivered to the Apophis surface or to the orbit of its artificial satellite, as it was proposed in a number of papers.