A gigantic asteroid named Apophis (it’s also been nicknamed the “God of Chaos”) is picking up speed and may end up hitting us in the year 2068. If it does hit, since the asteroid measures more than 1,000 feet in width, the results would be catastrophic as the impact would be equivalent to 880 million tons of TNT.
Asteroid Apophis is composed of rocky materials with a mix of metallic nickel and iron. The fact that it is gaining speed increases the possibility of it hitting the Earth on April 12, 2068. They call this burst of speed the Yarkovsky effect, which is when sunlight heats up the dayside of a rotating asteroid and as it turns, the night side releases the heat which gives it a push through space.
When it was first discovered back in June of 2004 by astronomers Roy Tucker, David Tholen and Fabrizio Bernardi at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, experts claimed that there was no chance of it hitting us. Ever since its discovery, the asteroid has been studied as it orbits our sun (it completes a full orbit in less than one Earth year) and the new findings do suggest that there is a chance of it hitting us in 48 years.
David Tholen, who is one of the astronomers who first detected the asteroid, explained, “The new observations we obtained with the Subaru telescope earlier this year were good enough to reveal the Yarkovsky acceleration of Apophis, and they show that the asteroid is drifting away from a purely gravitational orbit by about 170 meters per year, which is enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario in play.”
In fact, it has been ranked the third-highest threat on NASA’s Sentry Risk Table, behind asteroid (29075) 1950 DA, and asteroid Bennu. According to the table, Apophis has a 1 in 150,000 chance of hitting us. The first two won’t hit for a long time as asteroid (29075) 1950 DA has a 1 in 8,300 chance of hitting Earth in the year 2880, while Bennu has a 1 in 2,700 probability of impacting us sometime between the years 2175 and 2199.
There is a lot more research that needs to be done in regards to Apophis’ orbit to know for sure whether or not it will hit us. Experts have changed their minds on whether or not it will impact us. Back when it was first discovered, they said that an impact was impossible, then there was a 2.7% chance, and now it will pass by us at a distance of just under 20,000 miles from our planet. What is known for sure is that this is the first time that scientists have been able to see and study in advance an asteroid of this gigantic size that may come very close to hitting us.
Researchers have stated that they will “know well before 2068 if there is any chance of an impact”. Let’s hope they’re right. Pictures of the asteroid Apophis can be seen here.