An asteroid with more force than biggest nuclear bomb is being observed to come close to Earth in year 2029.
Named after a god of chaos, the Apophis will have its closest encounter with Earth in 2029. The asteroid is said to be as big as the Eiffel Tower with a diameter of about 340 metres (1,115 feet). This will be the Earth’s first encounter with a rock that big. The US space agency NASA described Apophis as “one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth”.
Asteroid with force stronger than the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated
According to the Russian emergencies ministry, Apophis will come within 39,000km (24,000 miles) of the Earth’s surface. This distance is considered so close for an asteroid because this is where television satellites operate.
Based on the Russian researchers’ estimate, if the asteroid hits Earth, it is capable of releasing energy equal to 1,717 megatons. That would be 30 times the force of the Soviet Tsar Bomba tested in 1961, the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated.
Astronomers at the US observatory had detected Apophis as early as 2004. They forecasted that Apophis will come near Earth in seven year’s time by 2068. Based on their calculations, the asteroid would miss hitting our planet by less than 32,000km.
Based on the forecasts of experts in Hong Kong, the asteroid would miss hitting the satellites of the Chinese or international space stations during its close visit in 2029.
“The predicted distance of closest approach is out in the region inhabited by [TV] satellites, but the chances of an impact with any satellite there are minuscule given the relative sizes and speeds compared with the volume of space,” said Quentin Parker, head of the Laboratory for Space Research at the University of Hong Kong was quoted on South China Morning Post.
Apophis will not hit Earth but visit still historic
Parker added while the probability of the asteroid hitting Earth is low, its close visit would still be historic. “[Apophis] will pass 10 times closer than the moon and is only about five times Earth’s radius away,” he said.
“We have around 500 geostationary satellites that are further away than where this object will be at its closest approach, so it is considered to be the closest asteroid of its size in recorded history,” Parker added.
Jonti Horner, professor of astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia remarked that Apophis’ visit will help astronomical studies. For everyone, they could expect something “cool” to happen during the visit.
“At its closest to Earth, Apophis will be visible with the naked eye, which will be really cool. But it won’t be spectacularly bright – you would need a pretty dark sky away from light pollution to see it,” he said.