A huge asteroid is heading towards our planet with an increasing speed, and scientists say it may even collide with the Earth in 2068.
It seems that the planet has become a much quieter and peaceful place since the beginning of the year and the coronavirus pandemic that keeps threatening the world. Yet, this does not mean that things in the universe stand still too!
In fact, an asteroid named Apophis, after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos, is heading towards our planet fast!
According to scientists, the asteroid may even collide with the Earth in 2068. The 330-meter wide asteroid was discovered in 2004, by researchers from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.
They gave the asteroid the name Apophis, after the Egyptian God of chaos, or the serpent god who tried to swallow the sun. Since then, they have been tracking Apophis, and so far, they have realized that it will come near to our planet in 2029.
Forty years later, they believe it might hit the Earth!
Namely, the speed of the asteroid is extremely increasing, due to the Yarkovsky Effect. This effect occurs when the thermal radiation of the asteroid is not cohesive, and parts of it are heating up faster than others.
Although scientists initially predicted that Apophis will only shoot past our planet in 2068, based on its speed back then, the Yarkovsky effect now makes it challenging to predict its movements over time.
The effect might cause a slight change in the route of the asteroid, so this is why scientists say that there are chances that it could collide with Earth.
Dave Tholen, a researcher from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and a co-author of the pending study, explains:
“Without taking Yarkovsky drift into account, Apophis is still a threatening object, just not in 2068. With Yarkovsky taken into account, the 2068 impact scenario is still in play. Small, but non-zero.”
The risk is small, but scientists claim that the asteroid must be monitored. It is one of the third-highest threat on NASA’s Sentry Risk Table, and there’s a 1 in 150,000 (or 0.00067%) chance that it will hit our planet on April 12, 2068.
Such events happen on our planet about every 80,000 years. This asteroid is more than three football fields wide and is full of nickel and iron. In case it hits the earth, it would release the equivalent of 1,151 megatons of TNT.
To sum up, even though the risk is low, it still exists. In the next few decades, Apophis will be monitored by scientists, so we could have the opportunity to act on time before it causes some serious devastation.
Next year’s DART mission by NASA and SpaceX will involve a small spacecraft that will slam into a tiny asteroid to knock it off. This would be just a practice round for the plan to deflect potentially killer asteroids.