The End of the World? The Asteroid Apophis May Hit Earth in 2036

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There is a large asteroid, made entirely of iron, currently speeding toward earth.  Discovered in 2004, it’s called “Apophis,” after the Greek-Egyptian god of death and destruction.  And the asteroid named after a god of death will be the largest and closest thing to come near Earth than any other object in recorded history.  It will come so close, in fact, that it will actually be closer to the ground than orbiting communications satellites.  It will be seeable with the naked eye as a point of intense light burning across the sky.

When will it pass near Earth?  April 13, 2029.  A Friday.

But that’s not even the scariest part.

Scientists are nearly certain that the asteroid won’t hit when it swings by in 2029.  But there’s a possibility that, if Earth’s gravity affects the asteroid’s path enough, it will swing back around the Sun and strike the Earth on April 13, 2036. 

So, if Apophis does hit Earth in 2036, where, exactly, will it hit? 

It simply depends on how much Earth’s gravity pulls on Apophis.  But scientists are fairly certain that the asteroid would hit in one of 3 large areas.  The first–and most likely–would be an impact in the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of California.  This would result in a double shockwave of water screaming toward the West Coast of the United States, effectively vaporizing anything in its path for miles inland. 

The second likely area of impact would be in the great forests of north Russia.  Any impact in that area would start a massive fire that would burn millions of acres, spilling tons of ash and debris into the air and plunging the Northern Hemisphere into darkness. 

The third impact zone (and the least likely) would place the asteroid striking somewhere southeast of the Dominican Republic.  An impact there would wipe out populations on the islands of the Caribbean, as well as those population centers along the easterly coasts of the United States and Mexico, Northwest Africa, and the eastern coasts of Central and South America.

NASA, though, maintains that the chance of the asteroid swinging around and hitting Earth in 2036 is remote, with odds of about 1 in 45,000. 

How reassuring are those odds?  Those odds–the odds that humanity is now seeing its last days and knows the end of the world (or Armageddon)–are the same odds given to scoring a hole-in-one on a typical golf course.

Visit the NASA/JPL website for statistical analyses of Apophis’ course.

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