It is a warning left by researchers at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, who examined the celestial body and realized that the speed at which it travels is increasing due to something known as the Yarkovsky effect.The asteroid about 370 meters long and named after the Egyptian chaos god, the scrambler, passes close to Earth periodically, usually in April and October.
Apophis is pushed by sunlight. The Yarkovsky effect of acceleration occurs when some parts of the asteroid heat up faster than others, implying that thermal radiation is no longer uniform. It is enough to change your trajectory.
“The new observations, which we obtained through the Subaru telescope earlier this year, were good enough to reveal Apophis’ Yarkovsky acceleration,” said astronomer Dave Tholen in a press release.
“Show that the asteroid is moving away from its purely gravitational orbit by about 170 meters a year, which is enough to keep the impact scenario in 2068 on the scene“he added. There is still a long time to confirm the hypothesis. So far, the probability of impact on April 12, 2068 was 1 in 150,000.
Apophis was discovered on June 19, 2004, by Roy A. Tucker, David J. Tholen, and Fabrizio Bernardi at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Tholen has been following him ever since.
Eyes on 2029
Apophis is expected to pass very close to Earth on April 13, 2029, a Friday, enough to be seen with the naked eye in rural and suburban regions with poor lighting, and visible through binoculars elsewhere. This nearby passage will be visible in Europe, Africa, and the western portion of Asia.
Astronomers guarantee that there is no possibility of impact with Earth that day. “We have known for some time that this will not be possible when approaching 2029”, says Tholen.
Apophis is, however, one of the most followed asteroids in the skies, due to its probability of impact with Earth.
It is believed that the approach to 2029, 31,000 kilometers from the ground and below the orbit of most geostationary satellites, is expected to substantially alter its route. If Apophis’ orbit after that date resonates with Earth, this will increase the possibility of future impacts.
Constant analysis has already removed the window of a possible impact in 2036, in another of the asteroid’s passages through our planet. But, studies previous to the result of a possible collision on that date, predicted that the Apophis fall in countries like Colombia and Venezuela, in the predicted trajectory, could cause more than ten million deaths, if evacuation plans for these areas were not organized.
The fall in one of the great oceans, Atlantic or Pacific, would on the other hand produce the devastating tsunami with a radius of action of about one thousand kilometers inland to the coasts of North America, Brazil and Africa, three thousand kilometers in Japan and 4,500 for some areas of Hawaii.On average, the Earth receives the impact of an Apofis-sized asteroid once every 80,000 years.
In 2005, former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart had asked to be transponder on the asteroid, for more accurate tracking.
Before Tholen’s current conclusions about the Yarkovsky effect were known, and according to the NASA program that studies Nearby Objects, it was projected that on April 12, 2068 and October 15, 2069, Apophis would approach about 120 kilometers from the ground, below the satellites, which admitted a considerable impact window.
This will also not be the first reason for our planet of a potentially dangerous asteroid. In July of this year a space object the size of “a pyramid”, large enough to destroy a city, narrowly missed the Earth.
NASA detected it just three weeks before the passage.
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