Apophis: Supermassive asteroid likely to hit Earth 'twice' - Is human life in danger?

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 14 July 2019, 08:43 AM
Asteroid Apophis (Photo Credit: Twitter)
Asteroid Apophis (Photo Credit: Twitter)

There are more than seven lakhs asteroids in space that are found by the astronomers. It is to be noted that the asteroids are mainly found in an area called the ‘main belt’, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Recently, we saw many asteroids including 2019 NN3, 2019 MB4, 2019 MT2, 2006 QV89, 2016 NO56M, RF12 and others going past through our planet. However, they all did not hit Earth and we were lucky enough. You may all agree with the fact that asteroid, if hits Earth, can cause massive destruction on the planet. Have you ever heard of asteroid named 99942 Apophis?

The 99942 Apophis, stretches about 1,100 feet (340 metres) across and will pass harmlessly by Earth, about 31,000 km above the surface on April 13, 2029.

"The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science," Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs), said.

"We'll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few meters in size," Marina Brozovic said.

Well, it's rare for an asteroid of this size to pass by the Earth so close. Although scientists have spotted small asteroids, on the order of 5-10 metres, flying by Earth at a similar distance, asteroids the size of Apophis are far fewer in number and so do not pass this close to Earth as often.

According to a report by India Today, the 99942 Apophis, looking like a moving star-like point of light, will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere, flying above Earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia.

It will be mid-morning on the East Coast of the United States when Apophis will be above Australia. It will then cross the Indian Ocean and by the afternoon in the eastern US it will have crossed the equator, still moving west, above Africa. At the closest approach, 99942 Apophis will travel over the Atlantic Ocean. However, the asteroid will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic in just an hour.

Discovered in June 2004, Apophis has a small chance of impacting Earth, less than 1 in 1,00,000 many decades from now, but future measurements of its position can be expected to rule out any possible impacts.

Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JPL's Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), who is co-chairing the April 30 session on Apophis with Brozovicm, said, "We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis' orbit, but our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches."

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"Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs)," Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS, said. "By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence."

Now, you would not be worried about Apophis hitting the Earth in 2029. It is worth mentioning here that Apophis will make a possible impact seven years later on April 13, 2036.

If asteroid Apophis hits the Earth, it may trigger the biggest earthquake ever recorded on the planet. According to the experts, if the asteroid Apophis hits Earth and triggers earthquake then it will result in the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

First Published: Sunday, July 14, 2019 08:26 AM
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