A giant asteroid dubbed Apophis is headed on a trajectory that could cause it to crash into Earth and prove catastrophic to all life, says a scientist at the University of California Berkeley.
“It would create a crater over two miles wide,” explained Alex Filippenko. “If Apophis were to hit a city, goodbye to that city and the surrounding region for 100 miles.”
As recently as 2013, residents in the remote Russian city of Chelyabinsk were shocked to witness the arrival of an enormous asteroid burning through the sky in 2013. The previously undetected object slammed into Earth’s atmosphere, illuminating the skies brighter than the sun and causing panic among locals.
The asteroid is named after an ancient Egyptian demon.
The bulk of the object’s energy was absorbed by the atmosphere – sparing residents from a deadly impact 29 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atom bomb.
Adophis is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7 percent that it would hit Earth on April 13, 2029. Additional observations provided improved predictions that eliminated the possibility of an impact on Earth or the Moon in 2029. However, until 2006, a possibility remained that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole, a small region no more than about 600 miles wide, that would set up a future impact exactly seven years later, April 13, 2036. This possibility kept it at Level 1 on the Torino impact hazard scale until August 2006, when the probability that Apophis would pass through the keyhole was determined to be very small. By 2008, the keyhole had been determined to be less than 1 kilometer. During the short time when it had been of greatest concern, Apophis set the record for highest rating on the Torino scale, reaching level 4.
The diameter of Apophis is, as of the most recent 2013 observations, approximately 1,066 feet.
NASA discounts the threat of an Adophis close encounter with the Earth.
Researchers at NASA/JPL, Caltech, and Arecibo Observatory have released the results of radar observations of the potentially hazardous asteroid 99942 Apophis, along with an in-depth analysis of its motion.
The analysis of Apophis previews situations likely to be encountered with asteroids yet to be discovered: a close approach that is not dangerous (like Apophis in 2029) nonetheless close enough to obscure the proximity and the danger of a later approach (like Apophis in 2036) by amplifying trajectory-prediction uncertainties caused by difficult-to-observe physical characteristics interacting with solar radiation as well as other factors.
There has been consideration of a special mission to Asteroid Apophis when it comes back around in the year 2029 by the Russian version of SpaceX.
The main question would be what could their real mission be – to help push it away from impacting Earth when it comes back around in 2036? Officially the tentative mission is said to be geared to space mining rare-earth elements needed for high-tech industries.