Space Alert: Hazardous Asteroid Nears Earth

Space alert: Hazardous asteroid nears Earth (RT, Jan 9, 2013):

All eyes are set at the skies as a big hazardous asteroid is nearing Earth. According to scientists there is an actual possibility that the 300-meter-wide Apophis will eventually strike our planet, but the catastrophe is not imminent.

On Wednesday the dangerous space traveler is passing Earth at 14 million km – the distance which raises no concerns. Apophis near approach, which may have been observed around 00:00 GMT, was traced by Slooh Space Camera.

The asteroid is planning a series of come backs of which the one in 2036 is said to be most threatening.

Named after the Ancient Egyptian evil demon, Apophis was discovered in 2004. The initial estimations indicated the probability that in 2029 the asteroid would strike Earth. However, additional calculations lessened this possibility and postponed it till 2036.

According to NASA scientists in 2029 Apophis may pass through a gravitational keyhole which would change his orbit causing imminent collision with Earth in 2036.

Russian scientists are planning to plant the asteroid with a radio beacon to trace its orbit and the risks Apophis pose to our planet. But the mission will only take place after 2020.

According to NASA calculations if the hazardous asteroid collides with Earth the effect will be equivalent to an explosion of 510 megatons of TNT, which is roughly 10 times more than the effect of the biggest hydrogen bomb ever exploded.

The effect would vary depending on the angle. The collision would cause massive destruction across thousands of square miles, however would not bring any long-term global consequences.

In May 2012 NASA released report revealed that there are about 4,700 asteroids of 100 meters diameter and larger representing significant threat to Earth with only one third of them located and the rest under the radar.

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