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The Asteroid Apophis

Updated on May 11, 2013

The solar system is a hazardous place, there are comets, solar flares, meteorites and asteroids. Any of these hazards can be a quick end to our civilization and for that matter our species. Should asteroid Apophis hit the earth, although it would not be an extinction event, an impact would be catastrophic, with major loss of life.



To Close for Comfort

The year is 2029 and a light streaks across the noon sky. Apart from the sun, it is the brightest light in the sky and people looking at were mesmerized by it. This could easily be the scene as the 25 million ton asteroid Apophis hurtled breathtakingly close to earth.

Apophis tumbles past the earth, with the odd micro-changes in its path, as it continues safely back into space to orbit around the sun. The year is 2029 but technology is fallible, and if Apophis struck Earth the results would be catastrophic The solar system is a hostile place and the asteroid Apophis proves how hostile it really is. There was a 1 in 45,000 chance it could have struck the earth. For now the threat is diminished.

Apophis in 2004


The asteroid Apophis was discovered at the Kitt Peak Observatory by Roy A. Tucker., David J., and Tholen Fabrizio Bernardi on 14 June, 2004. At that time Apophis was believed to have a 2.7% chance of striking the earth. The latest observations show this is unlikely to happen. Apophis is 325 m (1,066 ft) wide, is oblong in shape and stone-like in composition. Apophis was later tracked by the planetary radar telescope at Arecibo in 2005 and again in 2006, allowing for a more accurate determining of its obit. Radar readings also show the surface of Apophis is also smoother than other Near Earth Asteroids.

Apophis belongs to the Aten group of asteroids. These asteroids orbit around the sun, which often bring them close the earth. The Aten groups of asteroids are hard to track visually, because they are hidden by the glare of the sun.

The moon is about 22,364 miles (384,000 km?) from Earth and in April 2029 Apophis will pass even closer to earth, making it easily visible. If there is no change in its orbit, the asteroid will appear as a 3.3 magnitude light moving harmlessly across the sky.

Although there is a 98% chance the asteroid Apophis will miss striking the Earth, the effects of solar radiation (sunlight), the gravity of other asteroids, its spin and other computational factors, could radically alter its trajectory. The year 2029 is not that far off, by then we will know if the estimates have been correct. The next time we see Apophis will be 2036, but its orbit will take it a few million miles away from Earth.

Should Apophis make impact on land or slam into the oceans, the consequences would be devastating. An air-burst of the asteroid Apophis will yield an explosive force of 750 megatons- The Sentry Risk Table.

Will Apophis strike the Earth in 2036?

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A Possible Impact in 2036

Apophis will fly quite close to earth in 2029, within five earth radii, and pass harmlessly into space. Apophis could, however, fly through a region of space called the gravitational keyhole, bringing it on a collision course with Earth on April 13, 2036.


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    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      So true, and 2029/2036 is almost around the corner.

    • syzygyastro profile image

      William J. Prest 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      WWIII is now under way as dozens of countries are under occupation by foreign militarizes, are in civil war and the question as to who might have just nuked Damascus. China and Japan are posturing and threatening each other. N. Korea has made threats that it has no hope in backing up. Martial law has been executed twice in two cities in the US and legislation is geared to warfare. Peoples savings are being rifled or there are plans in the works. Prospects are not too bright right now. Right now, we are at more risk from ourselves than an asteroid on a collision course.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      Quite correct syzgyastro, until then its a guessing a game. Solar radiation, spin(on its major/minor axis), even the kind of surface, may change its trajectory.i am not totally convince we could be ready to knock out Apophis if does come knocking on our door in 2029?2036, the time span is too long, anything could happen between now and then. There could be a world war, a general decay.....

    • syzygyastro profile image

      William J. Prest 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      Apophis being the size that it is, is subject to minor perturbations, even from other minor bodies. It's orbit is thus chaotic to some extent, making accurate predictions difficult for anything beyond a few decades. Solar radiation and wind can also change the orbit enough to create difficulty in orbital predictions. Whether or not the asteroid will hit the earth in 2039 is a little difficult to plot at this time. Nevertheless, we should prepare for the worst, as the Russians are now doing by way of mounting a program to deflect it.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      Hi point2make. Yes you are correct there is no consensus. What is bad is they don't even agree on the gravitational keyhole, it could be the deciding factor. I wonder if humans will be ready, if it going to strike earth? :)

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 5 years ago

      Interesting hub. There doesn't seem to be any consensus amongst astronomers about Apophis hitting Earth in 2036 but as we know any object in orbit around the sun can be affected in many ways. We will need to keep a close watch on Apophis. I think what worries astronomers the most is the small "city killer" asteroid that appears suddenly and without warning a day or two before impact. Good hub voted up.


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