Apophis 99942 (File Photo)
Asteroid dubbed as Apophis 99942 is all set to zip past the Earth on April 13, 2029. However, it will to return to the Earth’s vicinity 7 years later on April 13, 2036. It is worth mentioning here that if asteroid Apophis hits the Earth, it may trigger the biggest earthquake ever recorded on the planet and of course, the space rock will kill thousands of people. Recently, in an episode of his podcast 'Cosmic Queries', astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed the giant threat posed by giant asteroids heading the way of Earth. The podcast also featured science author and cosmochemist Natalie Starkey exploring the possibility of asteroids strike billions of years ago that brought the building blocks of life to the Earth, and future impactors ending that life — at least humanity's — in one fell sweep.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "It is an intriguing and under-appreciated fact that asteroids and comets may have been the bringers of life, if not the ingredients of life, but perhaps even life itself." "And yet, they can also serve as harbingers of doom for the very life that they brought to the planet," he added.
During a public lecture in San Francisco in 2008, the American astrophysicist had said, “A 370-metre-wide asteroid called Apophis 99942, which has been circling Earth for decades. This near-Earth space rock was at the heart of a brief spell of concern in December 2004, when early observations suggested a three percent probability it could hit Earth on 13 April 2029.”
"We know it won't hit Earth, we know it will be closer than the orbiting satellites. But there is a 600-mile zone – we call it the keyhole – and if the asteroid goes through the middle of that it will hit the Earth 13 years later...500 miles west of Santa Monica," he had said.
“If it did hit Earth, the impact of Apophis 99942 will submerge vast swathes of the North American continent,” Tyson had claimed.
He went on to explain how an impact in the ocean would trigger a tsunami. "If it goes through the centre, it will plunge down into the Pacific Ocean to a depth of three miles, at which point it explodes, caveatting the Pacific in a hole that's three miles wide. The 5 km-high wall collapses, falling back against itself and rising high into the atmosphere before falling back down to the ocean, generating tsunami waves,” Tyson noted.
The American astrophysicist further said, "So now you make a cavity a second time. This cycle takes about 50 seconds, you can calculate it." "All the artificial stuff, all the houses, factories, they get churned into the force that sandblasts the entire west coast of North America clean," Tyson added.
Tyson had said that the world would know on 12 April 2029 if the asteroid had "threaded the keyhole", leaving several Americans a headstart on finding a new home.
According to the NASA, Apophis 99942 will likely not hit Earth in the year 2036. But if it does, it would land somewhere in the eastern hemisphere and release 1,600 megatonnes of energy. If compared, the Krakatau volcano eruption in 1883, which caused destruction to 70 percent of the island and its surrounding archipelago as it collapsed, released only 200 megatonnes.