On Christmas 2021, Netflix released a starstudded comedy disaster movie called Don’t Look Up. The plot of the film revolves around two low-level astronomers who go on a massive media tour to tell mankind that an approaching comet was going to destroy the planet.
A few weeks later, ABS-CBN News Online reported that an asteroid as big as the Eiffel Tower is slated to hit near the planet in 2029. Before you start panicking, however, just take note that the asteroid is expected to miss the planet. Close call though, right?
Scientists in Russia have estimated that the asteroid Apophis will skim past the Earth in April 2029. This encounter will be the closest the planet will ever have with a rock of its size.
Just how close will the asteroid be to the planet, you may be wondering? Well, Apophis will come within 39,000km (24,000 miles) of the Earth’s surface — close to the distance at which television satellites operate.
This calculation is in line with NASA’s previous reporting that ruled out Apophis smacking Earth in 2068 and estimated it would miss it by less than 32,000km in seven years’ time.
Interestingly, the asteroid is named after the Egyptian god of chaos. With a diameter of about 340 meters (1,115 feet), NASA described the asteroid as “one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth” after astronomers at a US observatory detected its existence in 2004.
But will Apophis affect satellites? As per astronomers in Hong Kong, it is highly unlikely that the rock would hit satellites or the Chinese or international space stations in low-Earth orbit in 2029, although its path would be clearer closer to the time. This means that for now, Apophis poses no threat to Earth or its nearby artificial satellites.
“The predicted distance of closest approach is out in the region inhabited by [TV] satellites, but the chances of an impact with any satellite there are minuscule given the relative sizes and speeds compared with the volume of space,” said Quentin Parker, head of the Laboratory for Space Research at the University of Hong Kong.
In short, while the approach of Apophis may sound a bit like the plot of the Netflix disaster flick, you don’t have to worry because the planet is safe from devastation. Close call though, right?
Art Daniella Sison