99942 Apophis, previously known by its provisional designation 2004 MN4, is a 370-meter diameter near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7% 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 0.5 mile wide, or 0.8 km that would set up a future impact exactly seven years later on April 13, 2036.
ASTEROID APOPHIS, the “God of Chaos” space rock capable of wiping out millions of people, has a slim chance of striking Earth on 10 different dates, space agency NASA has discovered.
The imposing Asteroid Apophis is the third biggest space rock currently tracked by NASA’s automated warning systems. NASA estimates Apophis measures around 1,214ft (370m) across, making it a potentially cataclysmic threat to Earth. A 2018 White House report on the dangers posed by asteroids found objects on this scale threaten “regional” to “continental” damage upon impact.
If Asteroid Apophis arrived in the skies over Earth today, the brute force of impact would likely kill untold millions of people.
In a bid to safeguard our planet from the doomsday scenario, NASA keeps a watchful eye on the asteroid’s trajectory.
As a result, the US space agency has determined 10 dates on which there is a calculable risk of deadly impact.
If Apophis ends up hitting the planet on any of these dates, NASA said the force of impact would be equivalent to 1,200 megatons or 1,200,000 kilotons of kinetic energy.
For comparison, the US atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 detonated with the force of around 15 kilotons of TNT.
When could Asteroid Apophis strike the Earth?
NASA predicts 10 dates between 2060 and 2103 on which there is a small chance Apophis will veer off its path and into Earth.
The dates are:
- April 12, 2060
- April 11, 2065
- April 12, 2068
- October 10, 2068
- April 13, 2076
- April 13, 2077
- April 13, 2078
- October 10, 2089
- April 13, 2091
- April 14, 2103
On any of these dates, NASA estimates the space rock would fly into our planet at speeds of about 5.85km per second or 13,086mph (21,060km/h).
At the point of atmospheric entry, the asteroid would then speed up to about 12.62km per second or 28,230mph (45,532km/h).
By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge
Paul Chodas, NASA Center for Near Earth Studies
According to NASA’s Sentry monitoring systems, Asteroid Apophis weighs an incredible 67,240,989 tons (6,100,0000,000kg).
Because of its colossal size, speed and closeness to Earth, Apophis has been officially dubbed by astronomers a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid or PHA.
The space rock was first discovered on June 19, 2004, and astronomers initially feared Apophis could hit Earth during a close flyby in 2029.
The possibility of impact was ruled out for that year but 10 more possible impact dates remain.
Will the Asteroid Apophis hit Earth on any of these dates?
Officially dubbed by astronomers 99942 Apophis or 2004 MN4, the giant space rock has been a keen object of study since its discovery 15 years ago.
Thankfully, NASA is yet to sound the alarm bells as there appears to be no significant risk of impact just yet.
In April 2060, there is a very small chance the space rock will divert its orbit straight into our home planet.
But the risk of impact is too small to lose any sleep over.
According to NASA, there are one-in-10 million odds of impact for that date.
In other words, there is a 0.000010 percent chance of impact or a 99.99999 chance the asteroid will miss.
There is a slightly higher chance of impact in 2065 with NASA giving the asteroid odds of about one-in-3.8 million.
The odds translate to a 0.000026 percent chance of impact or a 99.999974 chance the space rock will miss.
However, NASA’s overall odds off impact for the next 100 years are a much more terrifying one-in-110,000.
Asteroid Apophis: Four space rocks with a slim chance of hitting Earth in the foreseeable future (Image: GETTY/EXPRESS)
This means Apophis has a 0.00089 percent chance of striking the planet by the year 2103.
On April 13, 2029, the asteroid will make a close approach of our planet.
NASA’s asteroid expert Paul Chodas said: “Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids.
“By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.”
Asteroid could send world back to ‘dinosaur times’ says expert
According to the Planetary Society, you should not lose any sleep over the threat of asteroid impacts.
Although there is no object currently flying towards our planet, astronomers have devised potential timescales for future impacts based on past events.
On average, 100 tons of space debris and dust hits the planet’s atmosphere every single day.
About 30 “small asteroids a few meters in size” hit the planet once a year.
Larger space rocks hit even less frequently, from once every few hundreds of years to once every few thousand years.
The Planetary Society said: “Skipping to much, much larger sizes, an asteroid the size of the dinosaur – and 70 percent of the species on Earth – killer at 10km in size hits on time scales more like 100 million years.”