NASA is preparing for a giant, “God of Chaos” asteroid that’s coming in less than a decade and will come so close to Earth that it could take out satellites and orbiting spacecraft.
A 340 meter-wide asteroid, with a height similar to that of the Eiffel Tower, is coming uncomfortably close to Earth in just under a decade. It will come zipping by the planet at a speed of roughly 25,000 miles per hour. The asteroid is called 99942 Apophis and is named after the Egyptian “God of Chaos.”
Scientists are mostly ruling out the possibility that Apophis could have an impact with Earth, saying that chances of the asteroid crashing into the planet are 1-in-100,000. Nonetheless, it could create some chaos with spacecraft and satellites that orbit the planet as it will enter Earth’s satellite ring.
What is most disconcerting about Apophis is that the asteroid is going to come within 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) of the surface of Earth. This proximity will be close enough to bring it inside the ring, or the path, of some of the planet’s satellites and other orbiting spacecraft.
According to NASA, Apophis will pass close enough to Earth to be affected by our planet’s gravity.
“We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis’ orbit,” said astronomer Davide Farnocchia, who works at JPL’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS). “But our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches.”
Astronomers predict that Apophis will make its closest approach to Earth on April 13, 2029.
When the asteroid arrives, in less than a decade, this large celestial body will be visible from Earth with the naked eye and will be brighter than the stars of the Big Dipper. It will first appear as a speck of light streaking across the sky, and will get brighter and pick up speed as it goes along.
It will first be seen over the southern hemisphere from the east to the west coast of Australia. From there, it will cross the Indian Ocean, then continue moving west over Africa. Just before 10 PM GMT, the asteroid will be over the Atlantic Ocean, and by 11 PM, it will have crossed over the United States.