The asteroid Apophis, designated as 99942, is preparing for a close approach to our planet this week on Saturday 6 March at a distance of 0.11 astronomical units.
In more common terms, this means that the asteroid will pass within 16 million kilometers from our planet, which is approximately 40 times farther from the moon. Despite these enormous numbers, this means that Apophis will be close enough to be seen with telescopes.
SpaceWeather said, “Apophis asteroid” passes over Earth this week at a safe distance of 0.11 AU (about 40 times farther from the moon). This is our last chance to study space rock before it returns to sink through the geosynchronous satellite belt in April 2029. “.
The width of the giant space rock is 370 meters, and if “Apophis” was on its way to hit the Earth, it is believed that an asteroid of this size would be able to eliminate a medium-sized country.
Calculations indicate that the giant space rock will then pass near Earth in 2029, when scientists cast an unprecedented look at the asteroid.
However, the journey that Apophis makes in 2068, is what researchers care most about.
Experts from the University of Hawaii previously stated that there is a 1 in 530,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2068.
But earlier this month, researchers said the opportunity was now 1 in 380,000.
And to put things in perspective, this is a 99.99974% chance that the asteroid will miss Earth. Although the opportunities are few, they are still there.
Dave Thulin and his collaborators at the university used the 8.2-meter-long Subaru telescope in Maunakea, Hawaii, to make the latest calculations.Their results indicate that a massive space rock is drifting more than 500 feet (about 170 meters) per year from its expected position in its orbit.
Scientists at the institute discovered what is known as “Yarkovsky” acceleration on the surface of the asteroid, which could affect the rock’s path to its flight in 2068.
The “Yarkovsky” effect occurs when an asteroid or a celestial body changes its orbit due to a small push of heat, either on its own to expel the gases, or push the gravitational pull out of the celestial bodies including the sun and the earth.
In this case, the scientists discovered a small thermal reaction that could alter the path of “apophis” slightly.
Dr Tholin said: “We knew for some time that an impact on Earth is not possible during the approach of 2029. The new observations we got with the Subaru telescope earlier this year, were good enough to detect the acceleration of Yarkovsky by Apophis, and showed that the asteroid It is drifting away from the orbit of pure gravity at about 170 meters per year, which is enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario running. ”
It was previously thought that there was a small chance that the asteroid would collide with Earth in 2036, although this was later ruled out.
“With the new data provided by Magdalena Ridge [معهد نيو مكسيكو للتعدين والتكنولوجيا] And Pan-STARRS optical observatories [جامعة هاواي] Besides the very recent data provided by the Goldstone Solar System radar, we have virtually ruled out the possibility of an Apophis effect on Earth in 2036. The probabilities of the impact as they are now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable to say that we can effectively exclude Earth’s impact. In the year 2036. ”
However, astronomers will have a better understanding of the trajectory of the future asteroid when it approaches Earth in 2029.
The rock will be at its closest point to Earth before 6 pm EST on April 13, 2029, when the massive rock is over the Atlantic Ocean.
Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said: “Apophis’s approach in 2029 will be a wonderful opportunity for science. We will observe the asteroid with optical and radar telescopes. Its size does not exceed a few meters. ”
Apophis was called the god of evil, darkness and destruction in ancient Egypt, as well as the “doomsday” asteroid.
If the 27 billion-kilogram asteroid collides with Earth, scientists will calculate that it leaves a crater more than a mile wide and an astonishing 518 meters deep.
The effect would be equivalent to detonating 880 million tons of TNT – 65,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.