Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Luckiest Friday the 13th You Will Ever Have

Apophis is the name given to asteroid 99942. Apophis is also the greek word for "the destroyer". I'm not sure who came up with the name, but its another case where either scientists or the press can be rather irresponsible in the nomenclature.
Here's Neil Tyson discussing this remarkable event from a few years ago:

The good news is that Apophis will not hit the Earth on April, Friday the 13th, 2029. In fact, it will be a once in a lifetime event for us all to witness. The following picture will help illustrate just how close apophis will come to hitting Earth:
The concerning aspect of Apophis is what happens after 2029. The "keyhole" Dr. Tyson talks about is a worst case scenario in which case Earth WILL get hit in the year 2036, which would result in widespread destruction of the west coast of the US. The chances that Apophis hits this "keyhole" is 1 in 250,000. A rather remote possibility. However, keep in mind your chances of getting hit by lightning are 1 in 500,000. Therefore this is a concern for scientists. It could be an even bigger concern in further out years and its eventual contact with Earth may just be a matter of time.
No matter what happens, at the very least, humanity will have at least 7 years warning to engineer a solution.
But, on April, Friday the 13th, 2029, look up at the sky and count your lucky stars that Apophis' orbit isn't even slightly different.

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