Experts say that an asteroid named after the God of Chaos is getting faster as it heads toward Earth and could hit our planet in 48 years.
Astronomers at the University of Hawaii have confirmed that the large asteroid Apophis is moving faster because of uneven radiation, which acts like a tiny thruster.
As it heads toward Earth, an asteroid named after the God of Chaos is getting bigger. It could hit Earth in 48 years. Astronomers have confirmed that Apophis (circled) is moving faster because of uneven radiation, which acts like a tiny propeller.
Astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona found Apophis on June 19, 2004.
Since then, the asteroid’s path around the sun, which it does in less than one Earth year, has been watched.
Earlier this year, scientists used the Subaru telescope to see Aphophis and found that it was moving faster after the analysis. This is called the Yarkovsky effect.
When the sun heats up the asteroid’s body, it sends the energy back out as heat. This heat acts like tiny propellers for the space rock.
Before the effect, astronomers said that an impact in 2068 was impossible. Since then, they have changed their minds.
Before the discovery, it was thought that the asteroid could not hit Earth on April 12, 2068, but the new information shows that it could happen, and it could be very bad. Apophis is more than 1,000 feet wide, and if it hit the Earth, it would be like 880 million tons of TNT going off at once.
Dave Tholen, one of the astronomers, said, “The new observations we made with the Subaru telescope earlier this year were good enough to reveal the Yarkovsky acceleration of Apophis. 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.”
Gizmodo says that NASA’s Sentry Risk Table has ranked Apophis as the third most dangerous threat.
The table says that there is a 1 in 150,000 chance that the asteroid will hit Earth in 48 years, but Tholen told Gizmodo that the odds are closer to 1 in 530,000. This number takes into account the Yarkovsky effect.
The asteroid is made of nickel and iron, and radar pictures show that it is long and has two lobes, which make it look like a peanut.
Researchers say that they need to do more observations to fully understand how big the Yarkovsky effect is and how it changes Apophis’ orbit. These observations are already in progress.
And they want to know “well before 2068 if there is any chance of an effect.”
When Apophis was first found, experts said there was a 2.7% chance that it would hit Earth in 2029. However, new information shows that it will pass within 19,794 miles of Earth without hitting it.
This is the closest an asteroid of this size has ever come to Earth that scientists knew about ahead of time.