Will Asteroid Apophis Collide With Earth in the Near Future? Here’s What we Know
Not a week goes by without another prophecy about the end of the world or news confirming the approach of the Apocalypse. Mankind has been repeatedly foretelling the end of the world, but in fact, nothing has happened. This time, however, the latest predictions by astronomers have been attracting public attention. According to preliminary estimates by scientists, the world will face three catastrophic threats from space. It is about the asteroid Apophis, whose trajectory has recently been very worrying for astrophysicists.
According to their calculations, the cosmic body should approach the Earth three times – in 2029, in 2036, and the most dangerous meeting which will occur in 2068.
What do we know about the Apophis Asteroid?
Apophis was first discovered in 2004 and since then, astronomers have been tracking it and calculating its possible trajectory in search of any potential risk for Earth.
For information, the size of the asteroid is estimated to be about 340 meters, or in other words, slightly larger than the Eiffel Tower.
I remember seeing news last year in 2019 when astronomers suggested that there is a certain risk that the asteroid might collide with Earth during its final approach in 2068. This news certainly did draw a lot of attention back then but more recently in the previous month or two, new contradicting data has been released to the public.
Of course, there were theories that the Apophis asteroid might strike Earth as early as 2029. Later, scientists suggested that a 2036 collision was more likely before official calculations revealed the actual odds of such an impact – 1 to 4 million. In other words, no, there will be no impact in the first two approaches of the asteroid.
What about 2068?
Initially, astronomers ruled out the possibility of the asteroid Apophis falling to Earth in 2068. However, in the last month (October-November 2020) new information was released based on more in-depth calculations, according to which the danger will be present throughout the period until 2068. Now I will explain why.
Have you heard of the Yarkovsky effect? This is caused by the heat radiation of the Sun which constantly strikes one side of the Apophis asteroid. Astronomers hadn’t accounted for this possibility previously but the latest studies reveal the potential threat.
What this means is that the Sunlight’s energy pushes one side of the asteroid, causing it to change the trajectory. Based on the current calculations, the Apophis Asteroid is turning by approximately 170 meters every year, changing its course.
Even with this knowledge, astronomers did not know until recently whether this effect changes its course away or closer to Earth.
Well, now we know that the asteroid is turning towards Earth which is why the risk of a potential impact remains.
Another interesting thing is that our planet could also affect the asteroid itself. For example, the Earth’s gravity is likely to change small avalanches on the surface and change its trajectory and mode of rotation.
One thing is certain – the two visits in 2029 and 2036 will be incredibly important as they will give astronomers an opportunity to examine the asteroid from a close distance which should be sufficient enough to help them prevent a catastrophe in 2068.
Furthermore, space missions in the near future will attempt to alter the path of incoming asteroids which is another positive thing to consider. I believe that even if there is a potential risk for 2068, experts will already have a solution to prevent the collision of Asteroid Apophis with Earth.