Will 99942 Apophis Destroy Earth?
In 2004, a near-Earth asteroid named 99942 Apophis was discovered by Roy A. Tucker, David J. Tholen, and Fabrizio Bernardi while working at Kitt Peak National Observatory, and stated that it will harmlessly pass by Earth on April 13, 2029. It was identified as one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact our planet. In 2005, it was renamed Apophis after the Greek name for an ancient Egyptian representation of evil. This serpent dwells in darkness and frequently devours the sun-god Ra as he makes his mighty passage across the sky.
After researching about it through some older astronomical images, scientists declared the possibility of a 2029 impact. It was predicted to safely pass about 19,800 miles (31,900 kilometers) from our planet’s surface. Although it is a safe distance, it is still close enough that the asteroid will come between Earth and our Moon, around 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers) away.
Scientists predict that during its 2029 flyby, Apophis will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere, then will look like a speck of light is moving from east to west over Australia. The asteroid will get brighter and faster as it passes by Earth, and there will even be a point where it would appear to travel more than the width of the Full Moon in under a minute, beaming such as the stars in the Little Dipper.
Although after the theories were presented, additional observations of the asteroid were put forward, where the risk of an impact in 2029 was later ruled out. New radar observation and a precise orbit analysis around March 5, 2021, concluded that there is no instability of Apophis that would result in the impact of our planet for a century. Therefore, this idea improved the knowledge of its position in 2029, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list.
According to Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, “A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years. With the support of recent optical and additional radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometers to just a handful of kilometers when projected to 2029.”