Asteroid Apophis: A Massive ‘God Of Chaos’ Rock Will Flyby Earth This Weekend, But What Will Happen Next Time?
God Of Chaos Asteroid : On March 5, 2021, an ice peanut-shaped chunk of space rock nearly as tall as the Empire State Building will make its closest approach to our planet, drawing telescopes to the night sky.
Although Earth is not in danger at this time, the once-in-a-decade flyby of the infamous near-Earth asteroid Apophis—officially known as 99942 Apophis and named after the Egyptian god of chaos—provides astronomers with an important opportunity to prepare for a potentially catastrophic event in the near future.
Apophis is an Aten asteroid that circles the Sun every 324 days and comes close to Earth every decade or so.
It was discovered in 2004 and is roughly 1,200 feet/370 metres diameter.
Apophis will travel well beyond the Moon’s orbit on March 5, 2021—40 times farther, to be exact—so it’s safe for the time being.
Despite this, telescopes will be pointed at it this week in an attempt to map its exact shape, composition, and trajectory.
It will be televised live via the Virtual Telescope Project.
It’s your last chance to get a decent look at Apophis before it passes by dangerously close in 2029.
“If Apophis collided with Earth, the consequences would be catastrophic,” said Franck Marchis, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and the Chief Scientific Officer of Unistellar, which organised an observing campaign on February 21, 2021, as Apophis passed in front of a star as seen from a path across the United States.
“We need to understand everything we can about this asteroid in order to anticipate and avoid an impact.”
That’s because Apophis might pass near 19,400 miles/31,200 kilometres of Earth on April 13, 2029, and be visible to the naked eye.
That will be the closest one of the larger asteroids will get to Earth in the next decade, but it doesn’t sound too bad.
Especially when you consider that it has a 2.7 percent chance of colliding with Earth in 2029, according to earlier predictions.
The flyby in 2029 has been pushed back to April 12, 2068, and the chance of it happening has been reduced to 1 in 150,000, but the 2029 flyby could still cause a lot of problems because Apophis will enter the Earth’s sphere of geostationary satellites and could damage or destroy some of them as it streaks by at 19 miles/30 kilometres per second.
With the loss of the Arecibo telescope, measuring the position of asteroids during a flyby has become increasingly challenging.
Because of the “Yarkovsky effect,” there is uncertainty about the exact track of asteroid Apophis.
That describes the small effect of heating one side of an asteroid, which causes asteroids to shift their course slightly over time.
Marchis explained, “One of the biggest puzzles regarding Apophis is how its orbit alters when the asteroid is lit by the Sun.”
“Because the Yarkovsky effect is difficult to replicate, direct observation of an occultation will provide us with an exceptionally exact estimate of the asteroid’s position, generally 400 metres.”
If an asteroid the size of Apophis collided with Earth, it would be a once-in-80,000-year occurrence—and a massive calamity.
Clear skies and open eyes are my wishes for you.