TechApophis asteroid poses no collision risk with Earth, study finds

Apophis asteroid poses no collision risk with Earth, study finds

Artistic vision of the asteroid
Artistic vision of the asteroid
Images source: © Bing Image Creator
11:48 AM EST, March 8, 2024

Discovered in 2004, Apophis was initially deemed one of the most hazardous asteroids for Earth. Concerns arose about a potential collision with our planet, particularly during its close approaches in 2029 and 2036. On April 13, 2029, Apophis is expected to skim past Earth at a mere distance of about 23,000 miles.

Asteroid Apophis poses no threat to Earth

Even with its proximity, the slim chance exists that Apophis could encounter another celestial body, possibly altering its course and making it a danger to Earth. This slight possibility prompted the researchers to conduct an in-depth analysis.

"We mapped the orbits of all known asteroids using a computer simulation of the Solar System and evaluated the likelihood of such an improbable event. Fortunately, we foresee no such collision," states Prof. Paul Wiegert, author of the upcoming study in the "Planetary Science Journal."

Professor Benjamin Hyatt, a contributing researcher, notes: "Given Apophis's close approach to Earth, there's a theoretical risk that its trajectory might change and lead it to collide with Earth. A hypothetical collision with another asteroid could trigger this. This was the reason behind our decision to assess the risk, no matter how minimal."

Named after the Egyptian demon symbolizing evil and chaos, Apophis is not expected to cause any destruction in the foreseeable future, according to the scientists. "Since its discovery in 2004, Apophis has captivated us—it represented the first significant asteroid threat. Despite now knowing it will narrowly miss us, astronomers continue to monitor it closely. It's an asteroid we simply can't ignore," explains Prof. Wiegert.

Asteroids that approach Earth closely, such as Apophis, are categorized as "Near-Earth Objects" (NEO). This group includes celestial bodies that come closer to Earth's orbit than 1.3 astronomical units from the Sun (with one astronomical unit being the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, approximately 93 million miles).

Currently, there are tens of thousands of known NEOs. These are identified, cataloged, and tracked through dedicated observational initiatives. Among these, potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA) are specifically noted, which come closer than 0.05 astronomical units (about 7.5 million miles from the Moon) and are large enough to potentially cause regional-scale disasters upon impact (sizes greater than 460 feet).

Celestial bodies frequently pass near to Earth. For instance, in early February, an asteroid up to 1,574 feet in diameter flew past our planet. Ahead of this event, astronomers assured that the asteroid would pass at a safe distance of about 1.7 million miles, moving at a speed of approximately 11 miles/s. This asteroid was classified among those considered potentially dangerous (approaching closer than 0.019 astronomical units).

Information about predicted asteroid flybys is readily accessible online. These can be monitored on websites such as the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) website.

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