space asteroid, God of Chaos
Photo by NASA/JPL

gif space asteroid, God of ChaosCertain members of Congress have exclaimed that we only have 12 years to live when global warming, global cooling, and/or climate change will kill us all. Forget all of that. The God of Chaos is coming instead. Apophis is its official name. Asteroid 99942 is its number. It is a 1000-foot wide asteroid that will come barreling toward earth in 2029, less than 10 years from now. And scientists say there’s a 1 in 100,000 chance it will impact Earth.

Apophis has been tracked since its discovery in 2004, when its orbit was initially so poorly understood that there was a big concern it might strike the Earth. Since then, additional data has fine-tuned their understanding of its path. Instead of a big scare, it was calculated that it will skim rather close to the planet, a mere 19,000 miles from the surface.  That’s close.  Almost too close. There are satellites that orbit at farther distances than this. An asteroid impact of this size could be catastrophic. After all, it was an asteroid thought to be about 30 times larger than the God of Chaos that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs.

God of Chaos Study

Even 10 years out, NASA is already planning on how they will observe it. If God of Chaos is going to miss us, why is it important to study it so intently? Apophis isn’t the only asteroid that has the potential to punch a huge hole in the Earth. There are about 2,000 such objects in the solar system that are known. And God of Chaos is worth knowing. By studying it, NASA can understand the the makeup of a typical asteroid.

Currently, the best plan NASA has for redirecting an asteroid is to hit it hard enough to slow it down even by a few minutes. This will allow the Earth to pass in front of the asteroid. Apophis will help scientists understand what kind of objects are out there. The response of a pile of rocks loosely held together by gravity would be very different than one that’s a solid rock.

Plant to Watch

On April 13, 2029, stargazers will see a speck of light streaking across the sky. What at first sight will appear as a shooting star will quickly get brighter and faster. It will first be visible to the naked eye when it zooms over the coast of Australia and the Southern Hemisphere (east to west). It will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic Ocean in just under an hour before it reaches the United States. Then it will fly off into space.

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