Scientists recalculate that Asteroid Apophis is speeding up, might hit Earth in 2068

The near-Earth asteroid Apophis rose to prominence after its discovery in 2004 as initial calculations of its orbit had indicated that there was a 2.7 percent chance of it colliding with the Earth during a close flyby in 2029. Although advanced calculations ruled out the impact scenario, it now seems that Apophis is likely to collide with our world in the year 2068.

A team of scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA have conducted a new study where they have factored in a phenomenon left out earlier to calculate the chances of asteroid Apophis colliding with Earth. The reassessment has shown that there is a tiny impact probability which stands at around 1 in 1,50,000.

By factoring the Yarkovsky acceleration, scientists believe there is a 1 in 1,50,000 chance that asteroid Apophis will hit earth. Image credit: Pixabay

The probability arises due to the Yarkovsky acceleration, which is a continuous slight push from the sunlight. This happens under certain circumstances when the sun heats up an asteroid unevenly thus resulting in asymmetric radiation of heat energy from the space rock. This in turn leads to slight changes in the orbit of an asteroid.

As the effect of Yarkovsky acceleration on Apophis was not calculated before, the scientists did not consider the change in orbit the massive asteroid will face.

The recent study shows that the asteroid is drifting away from its previously predicted orbit by about 557 feet every year. In a press conference, lead author David Tholen said, “The 2068 impact scenario is still in play” and maintained that a chance of impact can’t be ruled out just now.

Asteroid 99942 Apophis is more than 1,000 feet in size, which is equal to three football fields and it is expected to pass by at a distance of 31,900 kilometres from Earth’s surface on 13 April 2029. It is unusual for an asteroid of this size to pass so close to our planet.

Living up to its sensational status, Apophis was named after a demon serpent who personified evil and chaos in ancient Egyptian mythology. It is thought to be the enemy of the sun god Ra.



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