On February 15, 2013, a 55 feet diameter meteor hit Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring over a thousand people. That meteor may have injured a small town’s worth of people, but asteroids could kill the entire world’s population.There is one particular asteroid roaming our solar system by the name of 99942 Apophis that could do just that.

What would happen if a huge asteroid hit the Earth? There is one the size of 600 battleships headed for a close encounter. Credit: NASA.

NASA has said that Apophis may strike Earth in 16 or 23 years. It has the diameter of 1,066 feet and the mass of nearly 60 billion pounds—the size of almost 600 battleships combined. The Russian meteor only had the mass of 10,000 tons, according to Fox News; not even one battleship, which means Apophis could cause far more damage.

         Apophis was discovered in December, 2004, by NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program. A NEO can be a comet, meteor, or asteroid that has come into close range of Earth. Apophis is a massive asteroid that resides in our solar system orbiting around the Sun. The NEO program has calculated that Apophis will intersect in our orbital path in 2029 and again in 2036.

          The NEO Program has said that there is a 2.7% chance that the asteroid will hit Earth in 2029. However, the NEO program warns that “solar energy can cause between 20 and 740 km (12 and 460 miles) of position change over the next 16 years leading to the 2029 Earth encounter. After 7 years, the effect on Apophis’ predicted position can grow between 520,000 and 30 million km (323,000 and 18.6 million miles).” That means that it will be hard to predict whether or not Apophis will even have a close encounter in 2036.

If this asteroid were to hit Earth multiple things could happen. NASA has said that an asteroid impact could cause a global disaster killing a large amount of the human population.

Professor Nick Strobel of the physical science department at Bakersfield College said that they could cause a large steam explosion if it were to land in the ocean, making the initial impact explosion worse by causing a mega tsunami. Strobel has also said that it could cause an explosion equivalent to 60 million megatons of TNT if it were to just hit land. All the smoke and soot from the impact would go into the air and block out the sunlight, causing a drastic temperature drop. That would lead to an "impact winter", causing plants to stop making food and food chains to fall apart.

There have been ideas developed on how to stop an asteroid if it were to come towards Earth. Shengping Gong and his colleagues at Tsinghua University in Beijing say that they’ve come up with an idea that will make sure Apophis never comes back to Earth after the close 2029 encounter. Gong has said that a deflection method would be most appropriate to keep Apophis from entering an area of space near a planet that is affected by the planet’s gravity, called a keyhole. If a celestial object like an asteroid comes near Earth, the keyhole can alter its orbital path and make it come back to hit the planet.

       Gong suggests launching a type of spacecraft that uses the sun’s energy to move. The spacecraft would have a large, super-thin mirror like object called a solar sail. The spacecraft would be sent out on a collision course to Apophis. The spacecraft would bump Apophis over just enough to just miss the keyhole.

All these ideas have been discussed but nothing has yet to be put into effect. Nina Burnett

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  1. Great article Nina! Very interesting and informative. I will be watching the skies in 16 years for Apophis – hopefully just a fly-by 🙂 Your hard work paid off!

  2. Nina, what a great accomplishment for your article to be published! You are representing our school well and we’re so proud of you!

  3. thiss is a great article if i didnt read it i would have never known about how we might be extinct in 16-23 years but its reaaly cool article thamks :smile

  4. That is very scary that this could happen, but the image of the asteroid hitting the earth is WAY out of proportion. The asteroid is 1066 feet in diameter, and yet they made it look like its Hundreds of thousands feet in diameter. An asteroid that size would do tons and tons of damage. I doubt that a 1066 feet asteroid would do that much damage. Over exaggerated

  5. AWESOME ARTICLE!! i LOVE it!!:smile I dont think I could do a an article as great as that. Pretty scared about he world ending thing part. Thanks for writing this I learned a lot!! :smile:smile:smile

  6. This is scary and crazy that this could happen soon. but I think we all know the Earth is dieing slowly and that it’s just a matter of time that we have to prepare for.

    • We actually are, it will just not be the cheapest solution in the world. I am assuming no one has started creating a solution because we still are racing to put the first man on mars. This will be a very expensive project to block/cover/deflect the asteroid from the VERY large keyhole.