According to Fox News, new studies reveal that Apophis is speeding up and changing its predicted path, slowly pushing it closer to a possible impact in the future.
Also known as 99942 Apophis, the 1,120-foot wide space rock will fly within 23,441 miles of Earth in 2029, as well as in 2036. Yet, it’s the asteroids’ approach in 2068 that has scientists talking. Due to the spin of the asteroid, one side will heat up while it is facing the sun, and as it rotates it will release the heat. Over time this will cause a change in the orbit, which is known as the Yarkovsky effect.
“We have known for some time that an impact with Earth is not possible during the 2029 close approach,” said one of the study’s authors, University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy astronomer Dave Tholen, in a statement.“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.”
The size and proximity to Earth, over ten times closer than the Moon, places the space rock into the category of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs). PHOs are defined as objects that come within 0.05 astronomical units and is over 460 feet in diameter. One astronomical unit is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun, making 0.05 AU over four and a half million miles. Apophis is about two hundred times closer than this, now do you see why this has scientists talking?
In 2018, NASA unveiled a 20-page plan that details the steps the U.S. should take to be better prepared for near-Earth objects (NEOs), defined as an asteroid or comet whose orbit brings it within a distance from the Sun of 1.3 times the Earth’s average distance from the Sun. A recent survey shows that Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts rather than sending humans back to the Moon or to Mars, emphasizing the point of how people feel about being unprepared for a global catastrophe.
ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA
SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH
IMAGE CREDITS: METRO