Apophis will pass Earth closer than any asteroid in decades, but do not panic

Apophis will pass Earth closer than any asteroid in decades, but do not panic

There have been many asteroids in the news lately, but the asteroid has received a lot of attention since its discovery in 2004. The asteroid, which is more than 1,100 feet (about 340 meters) in diameter and travels more than 10,000 miles per hour, will pass closer to the earth than any asteroid this decade.

Understandably, this is cause for concern for many who have grown up with stories of dinosaur killers and civilization-ending asteroid impact from science fiction, something that does not just come from our imagination.

Given that Apophis will come within about 20,000 miles of Earth, which is closer than many geostationary satellites currently in orbit, it is natural to ask, will the Apophis asteroid hit Earth? If it did, when, where and what effect would it have, and why do we think we are at least safe in the next few decades?

Will the Apophis asteroid hit Earth?

The short answer is no, the asteroid Apophis will not hit Earth, and it is important to get it out of the way early.

Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are high-priority research for government agencies around the world such as NASA and ESA, which is understandable given their potentially apocalyptic effects. Even “modest” asteroids less than 100 meters long can hit the earth with the force of nearly two hundred atomic bombs detonating in a single moment, and there is ample evidence that such strikes were very common throughout Earth’s history.

This is one of the reasons why astronomers keep such a close eye on asteroids that are close to Earth, namely those that pass within about 1 million miles from Earth, but especially those that come closer than the moon’s orbit. Known as a Lunar Distance (LD), this is about 239,000 miles or about 384,000 kilometers, and although it sounds like it is really far away, this is nothing in cosmic terms.

Asteroids that pass within this distance are particularly dangerous because they obviously pass through the influence of the earth’s gravity and therefore have a probability of being drawn towards the earth’s surface. How much they are drawn in can be the difference between life and civilizing disaster, so all identified potential threats are actively monitored.

Fortunately, this is why we know we do not have to worry about the asteroid 99942 Apophis, as it is officially called, at least for the next century. When it was first discovered, its orbit was predicted and showed that it came uncomfortably close to Earth in 2029, making it something of a doomsday stone in the popular consciousness.

“When I started working on asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster child for dangerous asteroids,” said Davide Farnocchia, of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), part of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in a NASA statement announce the downgraded risk.

“With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations,” “the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometers to only a handful of kilometers when projected to 2029. This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future motion, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list. “

What does NASA say about Apophis?

Apophis will pass Earth closer than any asteroid in decades, but do not panic
Pictures of Apophis, recorded with radio antennas at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and Deep Space Network’s Goldstone complex in California. The asteroid was 10.6 million miles, or about 17 million kilometers, away, with a resolution of 127 feet, or 38.75 meters, per pixel | Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech and NSF / AUI / GBO

From now on, NASA says that Apophis will not pose a threat to Earth until well after its approach in 2068. “A 2068 impact is no longer possible.” Farnocchia sa, “and our calculations do not show any risk of impact for at least the next 100 years.”

“Although Apophis recently made a close approach to Earth,” said JPL researcher Marina Brozovic, who led the radar campaign at Deepstone Network’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, which refined Apophis’ orbital characteristics, “it was still nearly 16.6 million miles ( about 17 million kilometers away. Nevertheless, we were able to get incredibly accurate information about its distance with an accuracy of about 490 feet (150 meters). “

“This campaign not only helped us rule out any impact,” Brozovic added, “it presented us with a wonderful scientific opportunity.”

By using Goldstone in collaboration with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to better image Apophis at a distance of 44 LD, asteroid hunters were able to capture a relatively clear image of Apophis with a resolution of a little less than 39 meters per pixel, “which is a remarkable resolution, given that the asteroid was 17 million kilometers away, or about 44 times the distance between Earth and the moon, says Brozovic. “If we had binoculars as powerful as this radar, we could sit in Los Angeles and read a dinner menu at a restaurant in New York. “

Scientists hope that this radar and newer equipment will help them get an even clearer look at the asteroid when it arrives within about 18,000 miles of Earth by 2029. At this distance, Apophis will be visible to the naked eye to observers on the ground in it. eastern hemisphere.

What would happen if the asteroid Apophis hit Earth?

Apophis will pass Earth closer than any asteroid in decades, but do not panic
Source: NASA

Ok, but what would happen if the asteroid Apophis hit Earth? At more than 1,100 feet across, according to new estimates, this would be a devastating effect, but not the worst the earth has ever experienced – or even humans for that matter.

For that matter, the Tunguska Impactor, believed to have been an asteroid about 90 feet in diameter that exploded over Russian Siberia in 1908, produced an approximate 12-megaton explosion that flattened Siberian forests for hundreds of miles around Ground Zero. This is the energy of about 185 Hiroshima bombs, and even if it were an atmospheric detonation, it would have been catastrophic for anyone caught in the radius of the explosion that exploded towards the earth like a cosmic shotgun.

Possibly the only eyewitness to the incident, who was sitting in a chair in front of a shop about 600 km from ground zero, saw the explosion light up the sky before it was blown out of the chair by such a hot air blow he thought he had caught fire.

Suddenly in the northern sky … the sky was divided into two parts, he told investigators, “and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky seemed covered with fire … At that moment a bang was heard in the sky and a mighty crash. The crash was followed by a sound like rocks falling from the sky, or by [artillery] burning.”

This was 40 miles away from a suspected asteroid that was only 90 feet across. Apophis is 340 feet across or almost four times the size, which would do produce an explosion of just around 850 megatons. Not all of that energy would hit Earth, as much of it would produce an atmospheric shock wave, but this would be one of the most – if not the most – devastating explosions in the historical record.

Yet this would not be anywhere near the dinosaur killer that struck the Yucatan Peninsula about 65 million years ago. That impact body was at least several kilometers across, and although it wiped out the larger non-bird dinosaurs, life on earth still survived. Human civilization would almost certainly survive an impact from the asteroid Apophis, although we would definitely not be in the best shape afterwards, especially in areas around the impact itself.

While it’s entertaining to play out a scenario like this, it’s important to remember that while NASA takes these NEOs seriously, at least Apophis is not a threat to humans for long. There may be other dangers lurking out there unseen, but Apophis is not one of them.


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