Ever seen “Armageddon“, that action si-fi staring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. In it a team of big burly oil rig workers go up into space to drill through and blow up an asteroid crashing down towards earth. Of course Bruce saves the world in good old Willis style, a firework of meteoric rock filling the sky. Interestingly enough this scenario may not be too far off reality.
The other night I was flicking the channels and stumbled upon a science show talking about the asteroid Apophis. The first time I heard about this hunk of rock and gas was in 2004. Astronomers had calculated that this near earth asteroid could possible enter our atmosphere in 2029 and collide with earth, but luckily that has proved to be incorrect.
My not so scientific mind couldn’t follow the calculations and measurements but what I did understand was that when Apophis passes by earth in 2029 it will be closer to us then our communications satellites. With only 30,000 km between us and this spinning rock we will be able to see the asteroid on Friday the 13th of April (weird coincidence) as a moving bright light in our sky. But it will be our lucky day as Apophis will pass us by and not destroy earth after all.
However there is a tiny chance, 1-10,000 (larger than the possibility of winning the lottery), that Apophis will change it’s mind and decide to demolish life as we know it in 2036. So lets hope that by then NASA will have trained Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to be the hero’s we have seen them be on the silver screen. And if not maybe someone else will relish the chance!
But either way we will be hearing a lot more about Apophis in the years to come, some hot air and a hunk of rock spinning around in space keeping our eyes fixed on the nights sky.