The asteroid Apophis seems like a friendly rock speeding through the space near Earth for now, but later on in its relationship with our planet, it might strike down to the surface with devastating results.
It may never happen, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility, according to a report on Astrowatch.net. After all, scientists were briefly worried in 2004 about that asteroid striking Earth, before further calculations showed there was nothing to be alarmed about. It has passed through our space neighborhood since then without incident, but Apophis has future flybys scheduled and while the next couple are going to go pretty smoothly, others may not be as pleasant.
NASA projects that Apophis will come by in 2029 and will return again in 2036. In the former journey, the closest the asteroid may get to Earth a little less than 20,000 miles, which is closer than some of our satellites. That’s a pretty close pass to the planet, and will put it into the record books as the closest one of its size. It will appear “to the naked eye as a moderately bright point of light moving rapidly across the sky” over the mid-Atlantic area.
The latter flyby, in 2036, will be from much farther out, several million miles away. NASA scientists finalized calculations a few years ago that showed there was no danger during that pass.
“The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036,” Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at the time. “Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future.”
But the future beyond that is wide open.
“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the…