ICYMI: A small asteroid almost grazed Earth early Thursday (October 12th), in a close flyby that scientists had been looking forward to for months… Yep, the “2012 TC4” zipped about a cool 26,000 miles above Antarctica at 1:42 a.m. EDT—for perspective, that’s 11 percent the distance between Earth and the moon, and just beyond the orbit of geostationary satellites.
Fortunately, there was never any danger of an impact this time around, according to NASA researchers. That said, scientists are anticipating some scary shit in our near future—like our 12-year future. And by scary shit we mean a goddamn 40-million-ton asteroid that could collide with our planet in a colossal fiery explosion.
Apophis, the asteroid, is expected to pass within 18,600 miles of us on April 13, 2029. In space miles, that’s far too close for comfort.
If it hits, it’ll leave survivors with a 1.25-mile long, 1,700-foot deep crater. Essentially, it could annihilate an entire city if it were to land in an urban area. The blast would equal 880 million tons of TNT or 65,000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
In December 2004, initial observations of Apophis indicated that it had a 2.7 percent chance of striking us in 2029 or exactly seven years later. That percentage has dropped, but scientists are still predicting a less than one in 100,000 chance of it happening.
Even if it doesn’t collide, they expect the near-miss to disrupt the asteroid’s orbit, making its future path unpredictable… which isn’t exactly ideal since Apophis will pass by the Earth again in 2036.
“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the Earth, but then the orbit will change in a way that is not fully predictable just now, so we cannot predict the behavior on a longer timescale,” Alberto Cellino of the Observatory of Turin in Italy, told Astrowatch.net.
NASA and MIT are designing a space probe mission to observe the asteroid as it passes, but they’ll have to get to it before August 2026 due to the way orbital mechanics work.
We trust that they’re working on some sort of planetary defense plan… but what could be foolproof against that?
Photo: iStock/Mike Agliolo