Asteroid Apophis was discovered in 2004, and will make its visit to Earth tomorrow, Jan. 9, 2013, passing through Near Earth space within 0.1 AU which is 4,450,00 or 8,980,000 miles (AU means Astronomical Unit).
Although presents nearly zero chance of striking Earth at this time, it is not so in 2036. In 2036, unless it changes its course, Apophis presents a 1-in-250,000 chance of smashing into the Earth, but for now we are safe, with a near zero chance!
Asteroid Apophis is about 1,000 feet or 300 meters in diameter, the same diameter of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
Apophis can be observed using optical telescopes or mode advanced space radar instruments.
This visit f the Apothis to the Earth will make possible important studies that will improve our understanding of this and other solar system orbiting asteroids.
So, what does an asteroid’s nearly zero chance to hit the Earth mean?
When Apophis was discovered in 2004 scientists observed that it has up to 2.7% probability to strike Earth, not in 2004, but in 2029! They worried but soon discovered better news which just as frightening was replaced by another possibility of collision—The possible impact in 2036 which scientists predicted would be a 1-in-45,000 on April 13, 2036. Nevertheless, and this threat decreased considerably.
And currently the 2036 threat is in the low numbers of 1-in-250,000 chances.
Currently, the chance of an impact with Earth by asteroid Apophis in 2036 has dropped to the present number of chances of 1-in-250,000. And this is the number that David Helfand, of Columbia University calls essentially zero. After 2013, it is possible that this essentially zero chance number may drop to absolutely zero. If Apophis doesn’t smash into Earth at that time, that is!
What would happen if Apophis did smashed into Earth?
I’d love to give you better news, but researchers are saying it would cause an explosion 100,000 times greater than the nuclear bomb blast.
NASA’s confirms that the Apophis pass very close to Earth in 2029 will come close. Close enough to pass beneath the geosynchronous satellites, or radio communication satellites, which are 26,000 miles above the Earth. Very close, I’d say. However, they don’t expect it to come any closer to Earth nor hit it. And there is also more than enough time to send space crafts to detour the asteroid, should it threaten to come too close to Earth.
Since 1990 there has been meets and plans on the board to devise means to deflect asteroids, should it or any other asteroid come too close to Earth. Nuclear weapons devices has been one of of the means considered and a satellite that could gravitationally move the asteroid and change its orbit and cause it to miss Earth entirely– And even the Deep Impact movie plan has been consider to outfit the asteroid with means reduce its mass and thereby changing its orbit.
As far as we know Apophis is not in a direct collision with Earth as has been imagined, but only presents a 1-in-250,000 chance to strike Earth, not now, but in 2036 and that number is expected to drop to absolute zero after tomorrow’s (02-09-13) fly by. Other than that, watch the sky and enjoy the Atrophis show!