Apophis is the Greek name for an ancient Egyptian mythical demon. It is also the name given to asteroid 2004MN4 that’s on a potential collision course with Earth.

Apophis was discovered by Roy A Tucker, David J. Tholen, Fabrizio Bernardi and the Kitt Peak National Observatory in 2004 and the astronomical community has since taken quite an interest in it. By calculating the trajectory, scientists know that this asteroid will come within 18,300 miles from Earth on Friday April 13, 2029. This is close enough to dip below our communication satellites and have its orbit affected by Earth’s gravity. Just how close Apophis comes to our planet determines how much it is changed. There is a possibility its orbit will be altered enough to pass through a half-mile wide “keyhole” in space that would send it on a direct track to crash into us seven years later on April 13, 2036, Easter Sunday.

The possibility of this happening has been reported at a range from 1 in a few thousand by Senior Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute Dr. Clark Chapman to 1 in a million by “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait. Most sources, including information from NASA, have settled on a 1 in 250,000 chance. If it is determined that it is on course to hit us, NASA will take evasive action to deter the asteroid.

Even if it does hit our planet, it is not large enough to bring about Armageddon. Its size has been estimated at anywhere between 200-350 meters in diameter. Wherever it hit would be destroyed and the surrounding area would suffer, but the entire planet would not be demolished. If it lands in the ocean, huge tidal waves would likely flood a large portion of North America and either Europe or Asia depending on which ocean it hit, and if it strikes ground, massive earthquakes and dust clouds would affect much of the world.

In the meantime, scientists are keeping their eye on Apophis and either way, April 14, 2029 should be a very interesting day. Assuming the world doesn’t end before that, of course.

Sources: NASA, Wikipedia, Deep Astronomy


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