Near-Earth asteroid Apophis, artwork

Near-Earth asteroid Apophis, artwork

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Credit: DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Near-Earth asteroid Apophis. Computer artwork of Apophis, seen against the Earth (middle ground) and the Sun (background). Initial calculations showed that there was a chance that the asteroid would strike Earth at its close approach on 13th April 2029. Subsequent studies have shown that it will miss Earth, but only by around 36,000 kilometres, the same distance at which geostationary satellites orbit Earth. This approach may deflect it enough for it to collide with Earth on its 2036 approach. Apophis is 250 metres wide, too small for an impact to wipe out life on Earth, but it would devastate a wide area, releasing 65,000 times as much energy as the Hiroshima atom bomb.

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