Asteroid Apophis (99942) is one of the most feared space rocks in the solar system. The asteroid is 370 metres wide and simulations of its future orbit reveal it could one day hit Earth – although the chances are virtually non-existent. Apophis will fly by Earth at a distance of 16 million kilometres next month – a distance which will not influence the orbital path of the asteroid, but still be close enough to see using telescopes.
The gigantic space rock will pass even closer to Earth in 2029, but it is the 2068 fly by which experts are most concerned about.
Experts using the University of Hawaii’s 2.2 metre telescope have recently stated there is a one in 530,000 chance it could strike Earth in 2068.
For reference, there is a one in 500,000 chance you could get struck by lightning, so while the chances are small, they are there.
Scientists at the institute detected a small Yarkovsky acceleration on the surface of the asteroid Apophis which could influence the asteroid’s path for its 2068 flyby.
The Yarkovsky effect is when an asteroid or celestial body changes its orbit due to small push of heat, either from itself expelling gasses, or the gravitational push and shove from celestial bodies including the Sun and Earth.
In this instance, the scientists discovered a small thermal reaction which could slightly alter Apophis’s course.
However, astronomers will have a better understanding of the asteroid’s future path when it zooms by Earth in 2029.
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How to watch Asteroid Apophis live
You can watch the asteroid’s passing next month, on March 6, courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project, which will show a 24 hour live stream of Apophis’ safe passing.
The Virtual Telescope Project said: “By far the most famous potentially hazardous asteroid, (99942) Apophis will have a relatively close approach to Earth on March 6.
“While waiting for its record-setting 2029 fly-by, we will share this upcoming opportunity with you, so join us and see it live from the comfort of your home.”
Apophis is named after the Ancient Egyptian god of evil, darkness and destruction.
It is bigger than the Shard in London and any impact could have major consequences.
If the 27bn kilogram asteroid were to hit Earth, scientists calculate it would leave a crater more than a mile wide and a staggering 518 metres deep.
However, most worryingly, the impact would be equivalent to 880million tonnes of TNT being detonated – 65,000 times as powerful as the nuclear bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima.