Sunlight is altering the path of the asteroid Apophis

by Kelvin
Sunlight is altering the path of the asteroid Apophis

The asteroid Apophis will need to be closely monitored by astronomers in the coming years, as its orbit has changed over time, potentially increasing the risk of collision with Earth. The warning was given in a new study, released in October.

According to University of Hawaii astronomer David Tholen, lead author of the research, the space rock is moving away from its previously predicted orbit, around 170 meters each year. The change of trajectory has been caused by the Yarkovsky effect, a type of acceleration generated by the sun’s rays, which can give a “small push” to the celestial body.

That solar impulse on Apophis was not taken into account in previous calculations, which showed a low risk of the asteroid colliding with Earth in 2068 — probability 1 in 150,000. But with this new discovery, the odds could change: “The 2068 impact scenario is still at stake,” commented Tholen.

  

For him, astronomers should be even more attentive to the celestial body, from now on, because the acceleration seems to be particularly strong. “We need to track this asteroid very carefully,” said the expert, who was part of the team responsible for discovering Apophis in 2004.

Chance of observation in 2029

A good opportunity to take a closer look at this space rock will come at the end of this decade, when Apophis will approach Earth, reaching a safe distance and without the risk of collision. It will be so close to the planet that it can be seen with the naked eye.

According to Tholen, the closest approach is scheduled for Friday, April 13, 2029. He believes that equipment such as the Arecibo radio telescope will provide a very detailed view of the surface and shape of Apophis, helping to predict possible scenarios for future impacts.