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Sunlight changes Asteroid Apophis’ path; will it increase probability of collision?

Even after the new calculations, lead author David Tholen believes that the chances of the asteroid hitting the Earth but it can'e be ruled out altogether. 

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 8, 2020 1:33:09 pm
asteroid, earth, asteroid earth nasa, nasa,A colossal asteroid equal to the size of the Eiffel Tower to approach Earth (Representational Image)

Asteroid Apophis which was earlier predicted to pass really close to Earth in 2068 but with new calculations by astronomers coming to light. The asteroid’s orbit has been disturbed by the heat it is taking from the Sun. This phenomenon is called Yarkovsky effect as it celestial object’s path changes due to heat energy being radiated asymmetrically.

The asteroid was discovered in 2004 and since then it was revealed that the probability of a collision are almost negligible. Now, according to the new calculations, the asteroid is drifting away from its original orbit. The change in orbit is about 557 feet (170 metres) per year. The details were revealed by the lead author David Tholen who has been monitoring the asteroid closely from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“Basically, the heat that an asteroid radiates gives it a very tiny push… The warmer hemisphere [of the asteroid] would be pushing slightly more than the cooler hemisphere, and that causes the asteroid to drift away from what a purely gravitational orbit would predict,” Tholen said during a press conference on October 26.

Even after the new calculations, Tholen believes that the chances of the asteroid hitting the Earth but it can’t be ruled out altogether.

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“We really nailed the position of this asteroid extremely well,” Tholen said. “That was enough to give us a strong detection of the Yarkovsky effect, which is something we’ve been expecting to see now for a while.”

The asteroid is also expected to whiz past our planet on April 13, 2029. Apophis, which is equivalent to the size of three football grounds will be visible from Earth and can be observed with the naked eye. It is expected to be as bright as the binary star Cor Caroli.

“Of all dates, Friday the 13th in April, April 13 [2029], is when the flyby will occur,” Tholen said., “Obviously, the 2029 close approach is critical. We’ll know after that occurs exactly where it [Apophis] was as it passed the Earth, and that will make it much easier for us to predict future impact scenarios.”

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