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Apophis (also known as Apep) is the Great Serpent, enemy of the sun god Ra, in ancient Egyptian religion. The sun was Ra's great barge which sailed through the sky from dawn to dusk and then descended into the underworld. As it sailed through the darkness, it was attacked by Apophis who sought to kill Ra and prevent sunrise.

On board the great ship a number of different gods and goddesses are depicted in differing eras as well as the justified dead and all of these helped fend off the serpent. Ancient Egyptian priests and laypeople would engage in rituals to protect Ra and destroy Apophis and, through these observances, linked the living with the dead and the natural order as established by the gods.

Apophis never had a formal cult and was never worshiped, but he would feature in a number of tales dealing with his efforts to destroy the sun god and return order to chaos. Apophis is associated with earthquakes, thunder, darkness, storms, and death, and is sometimes linked to the god Set, also associated with chaos, disorder, storms, and darkness. Set was originally a protector god, however, and appears a number of times as the strongest of the gods on board the sun god's barque, defending the ship against Apophis.

Although there were probably stories about a great enemy-serpent earlier in Egypt's history, Apophis first appears by name in texts from the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) and is acknowledged as a dangerous force through the Late Period of Ancient Egypt (525-332 BCE), especially, and on into the Ptolemaic Period (323-30 BCE) and Roman Egypt. Most of the texts which mention him come from the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE), including the one known as The Book of Overthrowing Apophis which contains the rituals and spells for defeating and destroying the serpent. This work is among the best known of the so-called Execration Texts, works written to accompany rituals denouncing and cursing a person or entity which remained in use throughout ancient Egypt's history.

Apophis is sometimes depicted as a coiled serpent but, often, as dismembered, being cut into pieces, or under attack. A famous depiction along these lines comes from Spell 17 of The Egyptian Book of the Dead in which the great cat Mau kills Apophis with a knife. Mau was the divine cat, a personification of the sun god, who guarded the Tree of Life which held the secrets of eternal life and divine knowledge. Mau was present at the act of creation, embodying the protective aspect of Ra, and was considered among his greatest defenders during the New Kingdom of Egypt.

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Egyptologist Richard H. Wilkinson reprints an image in his book The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt from the tomb of Inerkhau at Deir el-Medina in which Mau is seen defending the Tree of Life from Apophis as he slices into the great serpent's head with his blade. The accompanying text, from Spell 17 of the Book of the Dead, relates how the cat defends Ra and also provides the origin of the cat in Egypt; it was divinely created at the beginning of time by the will of the gods.

Mythological Origins

According to the most popular creation myth, the god Atum stood on the primordial mound, amidst the swirling waters of chaos, and began the work of creation. The god Heka, personification of magic, was with him, and it was through the agency of magic that order rose from chaos and the first sunrise appeared. A variation on this myth has the goddess Neith emerge from the primal waters and, again with Heka, initiate creation. In both versions, which come from the Coffin Texts, Apophis makes his earliest mythological appearance.

In the story concerning Atum, Apophis has always existed and swam in the dark waters of undifferentiated chaos before the ben-ben (the primordial mound) rose from them. Once creation was begun, Apophis was angered because of the introduction of duality and order. Prior to creation, everything was a unified whole, but after, there were opposites such as water and land, light and dark, male and female. Apophis became the enemy of the sun god because the sun was the first sign of the created world and symbolized divine order, light, life, and if he could swallow the sun god, he could return the world to a unity of darkness.

The version in which Neith creates the ordered world is similar but with a significant difference: Apophis is a created being who is given life at the same moment as creation. He is, therefore, not the equal of the earliest gods but their subordinate. In this story, Neith emerges from the chaotic waters of darkness and spits some out as she steps onto the ben-ben. Her saliva becomes the giant serpent who then swims away before it can be caught. When Neith was a part of the waters of darkness, as in the other tale, everything was unified; now, though, there was diversity. Apophis goal was to return the universe to its original, undifferentiated state.

Order vs. Chaos

The Apophis myth epitomizes the motif where the gods, the forces of order, enlist the aid of humanity to defend light against darkness & life against death.

One of the most popular literary motifs of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt was order vs. chaos which can be seen in a number of the most famous works. The Admonitions of Ipuwer, for example, contrasts the chaos of the narrator's present with a perfect 'golden age' of the past and the Discourse Between a Man and his Soul does the same on a more personal level.

It is not surprising, therefore, to find the Apophis myth emerging during this period because it epitomizes this motif. The gods, the forces of order, enlist the aid of humanity to defend light against darkness and life against death; in essence, to maintain duality and individuality against unity and collectivity.

The personality of an individual was highly valued in Egyptian culture. All the gods were depicted with their own characters and even lesser deities and spirits had their own distinct personalities. The autobiographies inscribed on stelae and tombs was to ensure that the person buried there, that specific individual and their accomplishments, would never be forgotten. Apophis, then, represented everything the Egyptians feared: darkness, oblivion, and the loss of one's identity.

Overthrowing Apophis

The Egyptians believed that all of nature was imbued with divinity and this, of course, included the sun which gave life. Eclipses and cloudy days were concerning because it was thought the sun god was having problems bringing his ship back up into the sky. The cause of these problems was always Apophis who had somehow gotten the better of the gods on board. During the latter part of the New Kingdom era, the text known as The Book of Overthrowing Apophis was set down from earlier oral traditions in which, according to Egyptologist Geraldine Pinch:

The most terrifying deities in the Egyptian pantheon were evoked to combat the chaos serpent and destroy all the aspects of his being, such as his body, his name, his shadow, and his magic. Priests acted out this unending war by drawing pictures or making models of Apophis. These were cursed and then destroyed by stabbing, trampling, and burning. (108)

Long before the text was written, however, the ritual was enacted. No matter how many times Apophis was defeated and killed, he always rose again to life and attacked the sun god's boat. The most powerful gods and goddesses would defeat the serpent in the course of every night, but during the day, as the sun god sailed slowly across the sky, Apophis regenerated and was ready again by dusk to resume the war. In a text known as the Book of Gates, the goddesses Isis, Neith, and Serket, assisted by other deities, capture Apophis and restrain him in nets held down by monkeys, the sons of Horus, and the great earth god Geb, where he is then chopped into pieces; the next night, though, the serpent is whole again and waiting for the barge of the sun when it enters the underworld.

Although the gods were all-powerful, they needed all the help they could get when it came to Apophis. The justified dead who had been admitted to paradise are often seen on the celestial ship helping to defend it. Spell 80 of the Coffin Texts enables the deceased to join in the defense of the sun god and his ship. Set, as noted earlier, is one of the first to drive Apophis off with his spear and club. The serpent god Mehen is also seen on board springing at Apophis to protect Ra. The Egyptian board game mehen, in fact, is thought to have originated from Mehen's role aboard the sun barque. Along with the souls of the dead, however, the living also played a part. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson describes the ritual:

The Egyptians assembled in the temples to make images of the serpent in wax. They spat upon the images, burned them and mutilated them. Cloudy days or storms were signs that Apophis was gaining ground, and solar eclipses were particular times of terror for the Egyptians, as they were interpreted as a sign of Ra's demise. The sun god emerged victorious each time, however, and the people continued their prayers and anthems. (198)

Each morning the sun rose again and moved across the sky and, watching it, the people would know they had played a part in the gods' victory over the forces of darkness and chaos. The first act of the priests in the temples across Egypt was the ritual of Lighting the Fire which re-enacted the first sunrise. This was performed just before dawn in defiance of Apophis' desire to snuff out the light of creation and return all to darkness.

Following Lighting the Fire came the second most important morning ritual, Drawing the Bolt, in which the high priests unlocked and opened the doors to the inner sanctum where the god lived. These two rituals both had to do with Apophis: Lighting the Fire called upon the light of creation to empower Ra and Drawing the Bolt woke the god of the temple from sleep to join in defending the barque of the sun against the great serpent.


Rituals surrounding Apophis continued through the Late Period, in which they seem to be taken more seriously than they were previously, and on through the Roman Period. These rituals, in which the people struggled alongside the gods against the forces of darkness, were not particular only to Apophis. The festivals celebrating the resurrection of Osiris included the entire community who participated as two women, playing the parts of Isis and Nephthys, called on Osiris to wake and return to life.

At the king's Sed Festival, and others, participants played the parts of the armies of Horus and Set in mock battles re-enacting the victory of Horus (order) over Set (chaos). At Hathor's festival, people were encouraged to drink to excess in re-enacting the time of disorder and destruction when Ra sent Sekhmet to destroy humanity but then repented. He had a large vat of beer, dyed red, set down in Sekhmet's path at Dendera, and she, thinking it was blood, drank it, became drunk, and passed out. When she woke, she was the gentle Hathor who then restored order and became a friend to humanity.

These rituals encouraged the understanding that human beings played an important role in the workings of the universe. The sun was not just an impersonal object in the sky which appeared to rise every morning and set each evening but was imbued with character and purpose: it was the barge of the sun god who, throughout the day, ensured the continuation of life and, at night, required the prayers and support of the people to ensure they would see him the next day.

The rituals surrounding the overthrow of Apophis represented the eternal struggle between good and evil, order and chaos, light and darkness, and relied upon the daily attention and efforts of human beings to succeed. Humanity, then, was not just a passive recipient of the gifts of the gods but a vital component in the operation of the universe.

This understanding was maintained, and these rituals observed, until the rise of Christianity in the 4th century CE. At this time, the old model of humanity as co-workers with the gods was replaced by a new one in which human beings were fallen creatures, unworthy of their deity, and utterly dependent upon their god's son and his sacrifice for their salvation.

Humans were now considered recipients of a gift they had not earned and did not deserve, and the sun lost its distinct personality and purpose to become another of the Christian god's creations. Apophis, however, would live on in Christian iconography and mythology, merged with other deities such as Set and the benign serpent Sata, as the adversary of God, Satan, who also worked tirelessly to overturn divine order and bring chaos.

An Asteroid Will Come Incredibly Close to Earth in 2029

Grazing by some of our satellites, this asteroid has scientists excited.

A decade from now, on April 15, 2029, an asteroid will swing past the Earth, just barely missing everything. The asteroid&mdashnicknamed Apophis&mdashwill be as close as some of our satellites and only a few thousand miles away from the Earth&rsquos atmosphere itself. That would make it one of the closest near-miss asteroids in history, and an incredible chance for scientists to learn as much as they can about it.

Plenty of asteroids narrowly miss the Earth all the time, but they usually never get much closer than the moon. Apophis is getting much closer&mdashand Apophis is huge. It&rsquos over 1,000 feet across, meaning it will be big enough to see with the naked eye when it flies past us. Most asteroids that nearly hit us are only a few dozen feet across.

Due in part to its large size, we&rsquore able to see Apophis coming over a decade in advance. That gives scientists plenty of time to prepare. There&rsquos a long list of scientific experiments we could do and a decade to decide which ones we want to pursue.

The reason this is such a great opportunity is because Apophis will be incredibly close to us, at least for a short period. The further away a spacecraft has to travel, the more fuel it needs and the less room we have to fit scientific equipment. With Apophis essentially in our backyard, we could send a huge satellite packed full of important instruments.

We could learn a great deal about what asteroids like Apophis are made of. We could learn about what our solar system looked like billions of years ago. We could learn about the history of our own planet. We could learn all kinds of things that we could only begin to guess at&mdashand we have a whole decade to prepare.


Asteroid 99942 Apophis is a near-Earth asteroid more than 1000 feet (over 300 meters) in size that will harmlessly pass close to Earth on April 13, 2029. When it was discovered in 2004, the asteroid caused a stir because initial calculations indicated a small possibility it would impact Earth in 2029.

After searching through some older astronomical images, scientists ruled out the possibility of a 2029 impact. It&rsquos now predicted the asteroid will safely pass about 19,800 miles (31,900 kilometers) from our planet&rsquos surface. While that&rsquos a safe distance, it&rsquos close enough that the asteroid will come between Earth and our Moon, which is about 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers) away. It&rsquos also within the distance that some spacecraft orbit Earth.

It&rsquos rare for an asteroid of this size to pass so close to Earth, although smaller asteroids, in the range of 16 to 33 feet (5 to 10 meters), in size have been observed passing by at similar distances.

&ldquoThe Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,&rdquo said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA&rsquos Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs). &ldquoWe&rsquoll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few meters in size.&rdquo

During its 2029 flyby, Apophis will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere and will look like a speck of light moving from east to west over Australia. It will be mid-morning on the U.S. East Coast when Apophis is above Australia.

Apophis will then cross above the Indian Ocean, and continuing west, it will cross the equator over Africa.

At its closest approach to Earth, just before 6 p.m. EDT, April 13, 2029, Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean. It will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic in just an hour. By 7 p.m. EDT, the asteroid will have crossed over the United States.

As it passes by Earth, it will get brighter and faster. At one point it will appear to travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper.

Apophis is named for the demon serpent who personified evil and chaos in ancient Egyptian mythology.


Apophis was discovered on June 19, 2004, by astronomers Roy Tucker, David Tholen and Fabrizio Bernardi at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. They were only able to observe the asteroid for two days because of technical and weather problems. Fortunately, a team at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia spotted the asteroid again later in the same year.

Since its discovery, optical and radar telescopes track Apophis as it orbits the Sun and scientists are confident they know its future trajectory. Current calculations show that Apophis still has a very small chance of impacting Earth &mdash less than 1 in 100,000 many decades from now.

The most important observations of Apophis will come during its close Earth flyby in 2029. Scientists around the world will study the asteroid&rsquos size, shape, composition and possibly even its interior.

Size and Distance

Apophis is a 1,120-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) asteroid. That&rsquos about the size of three-and-a-half football fields.

At its farthest, Apophis can reach a distance of about 2 astronomical units (One astronomical unit, abbreviated as AU, is the distance from the Sun to Earth.) away from Earth. It&rsquos expected to safely pass close to Earth &mdash within 19,794 miles (31,860 kilometers) from our planet&rsquos surface &mdash on April 13, 2029. This is the closest approach by an asteroid of this size that scientists have known about in advance.

Orbit and Rotation

The orbit of Apophis crosses the orbit of Earth. It completes an orbit around the Sun in a bit less than one Earth year (about 0.9 years). This places it in the group of Earth-crossing asteroids known as "Atens," whose orbits are smaller in width than the width of Earth's orbit, or 1 AU. As a result of its close encounter with Earth in 2029, the asteroid's orbit will be widened to become slightly larger than the width of Earth's orbit. At this point it will be reclassified from the Aten group to the "Apollo" group (the group of Earth-crossing asteroids with orbits wider than 1 AU).

The asteroid &ldquowobbles&rdquo as it spins about its short axis, typically rotating about once every 30 hours. Sometimes, there is also a &ldquorocking&rdquo motion back and forth about its long axis, as well, which occurs over a longer period than the short axis wobble. (The technical term for this rocking motion is &ldquonon-principal axis rotation.&rdquo)


Apophis is classified as an S-type, or stony-type asteroid, made up of silicate (or rocky) materials and a mixture of metallic nickel and iron. Radar images suggest it is elongated and possibly has two lobes, making it look something like a peanut. Much more will be learned about this asteroid's structure following its close flyby of Earth in 2029.


Like all asteroids, Apophis is a remnant from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. It originated in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Over millions of years, its orbit was changed primarily by the gravitational influence of large planets like Jupiter so that it now orbits the Sun closer to Earth. As a result, Apophis is classified as a near-Earth asteroid, as opposed to a main-belt asteroid.


There are no high-resolution images of the surface of asteroid Apophis, but it is likely similar to surfaces of other stony-type asteroids like Itokawa, the first asteroid from which samples were captured and brought to Earth for analysis.

Asteroid Apophis Impact / Overcoming Hopelessness

On our live Thanksgiving night show, researcher of ancient mythology and paranormal phenomena, Tom Horn shared his belief that the asteroid Apophis will hit Earth on April 29, 2029, a Friday the 13th, and this could be the 'Wormwood' event prophesied about in the Book of Revelation. Horn said he'd had several prophetic dreams in his life that came to pass, such as in 2010, when he had a vision that the current Pope would resign (indeed Benedict resigned in 2013). So, upon having another powerful vision in early 2019, he gave it credence. First, he saw a horned serpent hundreds of feet wide undulating toward the Earth. His perspective changed to an aerial view, and he then recognized the object as an asteroid. Back on Earth, he hears an incredible boom as the asteroid plunges into the Pacific, with tsunamis engulfing nearly half the world. "The atmosphere," he continued, "is being infused with scorched particles. that are coming up out of the boiling waters of the ocean," as people run for their lives.

As the vision was ending, he heard something whisper the word "Apophis"-- the name NASA used for an asteroid (from an Egyptian god of destruction). While astronomers have said Apophis will pass within 19,000 miles of our planet, Horn believes a cover-up is taking place and cited a paper by the scientist Nathan Myrhvold, which argues that NASA heavily underestimates the dangers of asteroids and near-Earth objects. Mapping indicates that if Apophis impacts Earth, it will come down along the coastlines of California and Mexico, and unleash a blast equivalent to a billion tons of TNT or more than 65,000 nuclear warheads, Horn warned. While exotic technologies may be used to try and change the trajectory of the asteroid, as far as he knows, they are not fully developed, as of yet.

In the latter half, author, motivational speaker, Unity minister, and practicing Shaman, Rev. Temple Hayes discussed the problems of loneliness, depression, and lack of meaning, as well as how to overcome the lack of love and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. Her concern is for people "dying while they're living"-- such as those in jobs or relationships that are untenable, or overcome by hardships. She is involved in the upcoming film "I Am Never Alone" to raise awareness of suicide prevention and mental wellness. While people have more ways to connect with others than ever before, many feel disconnected and unvalidated, she pointed out.

In Hayes' practice, she tries to guide people back to experiencing a sense of joy about their lives. People should look at their belief systems and programming, she advised, such as how some religions label everyone as sinners, and this contributes to feelings of worthlessness. Her free Mind Dive app offers suggestions for various conditions. For example, if a user clicks on depression or anxiety, the app will present different recommendations such as an essential oil, teaching, or exercise.

Scientists Planning Now for Asteroid Flyby a Decade Away

On April 13, 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won&rsquot be a satellite or an airplane&mdashit will be a 340-meter-wide near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 km) above the surface. That&rsquos within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.

The international asteroid research community couldn&rsquot be more excited.

This week at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland, scientists are gathering to discuss observation plans and science opportunities for the celestial event still a decade away. During a session on April 30, scientists will discuss everything from how to observe the event to hypothetical missions we could send out to the asteroid.

&ldquoThe Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,&rdquo said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA&rsquos Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs). &ldquoWe&rsquoll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few meters in size.&rdquo

It&rsquos rare for an asteroid of this size to pass by the Earth so close. Although scientists have spotted small asteroids, on the order of 5-10 meters, flying by Earth at a similar distance, asteroids the size of Apophis are far fewer in number and so do not pass this close to Earth as often.

The asteroid, looking like a moving star-like point of light, will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere, flying above Earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. It will be mid-morning on the East Coast of the United States when Apophis is above Australia. It will then cross the Indian Ocean, and by the afternoon in the eastern U.S. it will have crossed the equator, still moving west, above Africa. At closest approach, just before 6 p.m. EDT, Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean &ndash and it will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic in just an hour. By 7 p.m. EDT, the asteroid will have crossed over the United States.

A team of astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory discovered Apophis in June 2004. The astronomers were only able to detect the asteroid for two days before technical and weather issues prevented further observations. Luckily, another team rediscovered the asteroid at the Siding Spring Survey in Australia later that year. The observations caused quite a stir&mdashinitial orbital calculations revealed that the asteroid had a 2.7% chance of impacting Earth in 2029. Fortunately, additional observations refined the orbit and completely ruled out that possibility.

Since its discovery, optical and radar telescopes have tracked Apophis as it continues on its orbit around the Sun, so we know its future trajectory quite well. Current calculations show that Apophis still has a small chance of impacting Earth, less than 1 in 100,000 many decades from now, but future measurements of its position can be expected to rule out any possible impacts.

The most important observations of Apophis will occur in 2029, when asteroid scientists around the world will have an opportunity to conduct a close-up study of the Apophis&rsquos size, shape, composition, and possibly even its interior.

At the conference, scientists will discuss questions like &ldquoHow will Earth&rsquos gravity affect the asteroid as it passes by?&rdquo, &ldquoCan we use Apophis&rsquo flyby to learn about an asteroid&rsquos interior?&rdquo, and &ldquoShould we send a spacecraft mission to Apophis?&rdquo

&ldquoWe already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis&rsquo orbit, but our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches,&rdquo said Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JPL&rsquos Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), who is co-chairing the April 30 session on Apophis with Brozović.

&ldquoApophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs),&rdquo said Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS. &ldquoBy observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense.&rdquo

5 Plans to Head Off the Apophis Killer Asteroid

Friday the 13th of April 2029 could be a very unlucky day for planet Earth. At 4:36 am Greenwich Mean Time, a 25-million-ton, 820-ft.-wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis will slice across the orbit of the moon and barrel toward Earth at more than 28,000 mph. The huge pockmarked rock, two-thirds the size of Devils Tower in Wyoming, will pack the energy of 65,000 Hiroshima bombs--enough to wipe out a small country or kick up an 800-ft. tsunami.

On this day, however, Apophis is not expected to live up to its namesake, the ancient Egyptian god of darkness and destruction. Scientists are 99.7 percent certain it will pass at a distance of 18,800 to 20,800 miles. In astronomical terms, 20,000 miles is a mere stone's throw, shorter than a round-trip flight from New York to Melbourne, Australia, and well inside the orbits of Earth's many geosynchronous communications satellites. For a couple of hours after dusk, people in Europe, Africa and western Asia will see what looks like a medium-bright star creeping westward through the constellation of Cancer, making Apophis the first asteroid in human history to be clearly visible to the naked eye. And then it will be gone, having vanished into the dark vastness of space. We will have dodged a cosmic bullet.

Maybe. Scientists calculate that if Apophis passes at a distance of exactly 18,893 miles, it will go through a "gravitational keyhole." This small region in space--only about a half mile wide, or twice the diameter of the asteroid itself--is where Earth's gravity would perturb Apophis in just the wrong way, causing it to enter an orbit seven-sixths as long as Earth's. In other words, the planet will be squarely in the crosshairs for a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact precisely seven years later, on April 13, 2036.

Radar and optical tracking during Apophis's fly-by last summer put the odds of the asteroid passing through the keyhole at about 45,000-to-1. "People have a hard time reasoning with low-probability/high-consequence risks," says Michael DeKay of the Center for Risk Perception and Communication at Carnegie Mellon University. "Some people say, 'Why bother, it's not really going to happen.' But others say that when the potential consequences are so serious, even a tiny risk is unacceptable."

Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, now 71, knows a thing or two about objects flying through space, having been one himself during a spacewalk on the Apollo 9 mission in 1969. Through the B612 Foundation, which he co-founded in 2001, Schweickart has been prodding NASA to do something about Apophis--and soon. "We need to act," he says. "If we blow this, it'll be criminal."

If the dice do land the wrong way in 2029, Apophis would have to be deflected by some 5000 miles to miss the Earth in 2036. Hollywood notwithstanding, that's a feat far beyond any current human technology. The fanciful mission in the 1998 movie Armageddon--to drill a hole more than 800 ft. into an asteroid and detonate a nuclear bomb inside it--is about as technically feasible as time travel. In reality, after April 13, 2029, there would be little we could do but plot the precise impact point and start evacuating people.

According to projections, an Apophis impact would occur somewhere along a curving 30-mile-wide swath stretching across Russia, the Pacific Ocean, Central America and on into the Atlantic. Managua, Nicaragua San José, Costa Rica and Caracas, Venezuela, all would be in line for near-direct hits and complete destruction. The most likely target, though, is several thousand miles off the West Coast, where Apophis would create a 5-mile-wide, 9000-ft.-deep "crater" in the water. The collapse of that transient water crater would trigger tsunamis that would hammer California with an hour-long fusillade of 50-ft. waves.

BUT DON'T EVACUATE just yet. Although we can't force Apophis to miss the Earth after 2029, we have the technology to nudge it slightly off course well before then, causing it to miss the keyhole in the first place. According to NASA, a simple 1-ton "kinetic energy impactor" spacecraft thumping into Apophis at 5000 mph would do the trick. We already have a template for such a mission: NASA's Deep Impact space probe--named after another 1998 cosmic-collision movie--slammed into the comet Tempel 1 in 2005 to gather data about the composition of its surface. Alternatively, an ion-drive-powered "gravity tractor" spacecraft could hover above Apophis and use its own tiny gravity to gently pull the asteroid off course.

In 2005, Schweickart urged NASA administrator Michael Griffin to start planning a mission to land a radio transponder on Apophis. Tracking data from the device would almost certainly confirm that the asteroid won't hit the keyhole in 2029, allowing everyone on Earth to breathe a collective sigh of relief. But if it didn't, there still would be time to design and launch a deflection mission, a project that Schweickart estimates could take as long as 12 years. It would need to be completed by about 2026 to allow enough time for a spacecraft's tiny nudge to take effect.

NASA, however, is taking a wait-and-see attitude. An analysis by Steven Chesley of the Near Earth Object program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., concludes that we can safely sit tight until 2013. That's when Apophis swings by Earth in prime position for tracking by the 1000-ft.-dia. radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This data could also rule out a keyhole hit in 2029. But if it doesn't, the transponder mission and, if necessary, a last-resort deflection mission could still be launched in time, according to Chesley. "There's no rush right now," he says. "But if it's still serious by 2014, we need to start designing real missions."

About 100 tons of interplanetary material drifts to the Earth's surface on a daily basis. Occasionally, an object hurtles with enough force to leave a mark.

ASTEROIDS are large rocky or metal bodies that originate in the relatively warm inner solar system, in the region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

COMETS are composed mostly of water ice and rock, and form in the cold outer solar system beyond the planets' orbits. Scientists believe comets may have delivered the first organic compounds to Earth billions of years ago.

METEOROIDS are either pieces of asteroids that collided in space, or debris released by vaporizing comets. When meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere, they are called meteors, and when they reach its surface they are called meteorites. So far, the remnants of more than 160 impact craters have been identified on Earth. Here are six of the most notable:

Diameter: 236 miles

Cause: 6-mile-wide comet

Claim to fame: Though now the most eroded, Vredefort is the oldest and (at impact) the largest such crater on Earth. It was created by the world's greatest known energy release, which may have altered the evolution of single-cell organisms.

Predicting asteroid orbits can be a messy business, as the history of tracking Apophis in its 323-day orbit demonstrates. Astronomers at Arizona's Kitt Peak National Observatory discovered the asteroid in June 2004. It was six months before additional sightings&mdashmany made by amateurs using backyard telescopes&mdashtriggered alarm bells at JPL, home to the Sentry asteroid-impact monitoring system, a computer that predicts the orbits of near-Earth asteroids based on astronomical observations. Sentry's impact predictions then grew more ominous by the day. On Dec. 27, 2004, the odds of a 2029 impact reached 2.7 percent&mdasha figure that stirred great excitement in the small world of asteroid chasers. Apophis vaulted to an unprecedented rating of 4 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, a 10-step, color-coded index of asteroid and comet threat levels.

But the commotion was short-lived. When previously overlooked observations were fed into the computer, it spit out reassuring news: Apophis would not hit the Earth in 2029 after all, though it wouldn't miss by much. Oh, and there was one other thing: that troublesome keyhole.

The small size of the gravitational keyhole&mdashjust 2000 ft. in diameter&mdashis both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it wouldn't take much to nudge Apophis outside it. Calculations suggest that if we change Apophis's velocity by a mere 0.0001 mph&mdashabout 31 in. per day&mdashin three years its orbit would be deflected by more than a mile, a piddling amount, but enough to miss the keyhole. That's easily within the capabilities of a gravity tractor or kinetic energy impactor. On the other hand, with a target so minuscule, predicting precisely where Apophis will pass in relation to the keyhole becomes, well, a hit-or-miss proposition. Current orbit projections for 2029 have a margin of error&mdashorbital scientists call it the error ellipse&mdashof about 2000 miles. As data rolls in, the error ellipse will shrink considerably. But if the keyhole stubbornly stays within it, NASA may have to reduce the ellipse to a mile or less before it knows for sure whether Apophis will hit the bull's-eye. Otherwise, a mission risks inadvertently nudging Apophis into the keyhole instead of away from it.

Can we predict Apophis's orbit to the submile level far enough in advance to launch a deflection mission? That level of forecasting accuracy would require, in addition to a transponder, a vastly more complex orbital calculation model than the one used today. It would have to include calculations for such minute effects as solar radiation, relativity and the gravitational pulls of small nearby asteroids, none of which are fully accounted for in the current model.

And then there's the wild card of asteroid orbital calculations: the Yarkovsky Effect. This small but steady force occurs when an asteroid radiates more heat from one side than the other. As an asteroid rotates away from the sun, the heat that has accumulated on its surface is shed into space, giving it a slight push in the other direction. An asteroid called 6489 Golevka, twice the size of Apophis, has been pushed about 10 miles off course by this effect in the past 15 years. How Apophis will be influenced over the next 23 years is anybody's guess. At the moment we have no clue about its spin direction or axis, or even its shape&mdashall necessary parameters for estimating the effect.

IF APOPHIS IS INDEED headed for the gravitational keyhole, ground observations won't be able to confirm it until at least 2021. By that time, it may be too late to do anything about it. Considering what's at stake&mdashChesley estimates that an Apophis-size asteroid impact would cost $400 billion in infrastructure damage alone&mdashit seems prudent to start taking steps to deal with Apophis long before we know whether those steps will eventually prove necessary. When do we start? Or, alternatively, at what point do we just cross our fingers and hope it misses? When the odds are 10-to-1 against it? A thousand-to-1? A million?

When NASA does discover a potentially threatening asteroid like Apophis, it has no mandate to decide whether, when or how to take action. "We're not in the mitigation business," Chesley says. A workshop to discuss general asteroid-defense options last June was NASA's first official baby step in that direction.

If NASA eventually does get the nod&mdashand more important, the budget&mdashfrom Congress, the obvious first move would be a reconnaissance mission to Apophis. Schweickart estimates that "even gold-plated at JPL," a transponder-equipped gravity tractor could be launched for $250 million. Ironically, that's almost precisely the cost of making the cosmic-collision movies Armageddon and Deep Impact. If Hollywood can pony up a quarter of a billion in the name of defending our planet, why can't Congress?

Apophis through the keyhole

We know the position and orbit of the planets with quite some precision, but for smaller objects like asteroids there is always some uncertainty in their trajectories. To make things more complicated, as asteroids pass by massive objects with huge gravitational forces, their path is altered and this uncertainty in their trajectory is amplified.

Before the latest radar measurements of Apophis were taken, its orbit was understood with enough accuracy to predict a series of safe close approaches over the coming decades.

The next and closest of these swing-bys will take place on Friday, 13 April 2029, when Apophis will pass less than 35 000 km from Earth and be visible to the naked eye. At ten times closer than the Moon, Apophis will be closer than satellites orbiting in the Geostationary ring.

At this distance, Earth’s gravity will have a notable impact on the passing space rock, altering its path and amplifying the uncertainty in its orbit and in possible future impacts.

What was not known previously is whether the 2029 flyby would alter Apophis’ orbit in just the ‘right’ way that it would collide with Earth in a future orbit around the Sun. To do this, Apophis would pass through what’s called a ‘gravitational keyhole’, leading to a potential (but still very unlikely) impact in 2068.

“With the support of recent optical observations and radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometres to just a handful of kilometres when projected to 2029,” explains Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Fortunately, these latest radar observations have reduced the uncertainty in Apophis’ trajectory to such an extent that even with the orbit-altering effects of the upcoming 2029 flyby, any chance of impact in 2068 or long after has been ruled out.

Whew! Huge Asteroid Apophis Won't Hit Earth in 2036

The Earth is safe from the giant asteroid Apophis when it flies extremely close to our planet in 2029, then returns for seconds in 2036, NASA scientists announced today (Jan. 10). The chances of an impact in 2036 are less than one in a million, they added.

Asteroid Apophis — which is the size of three and a half football fields — was discovered in June 2004 and gained infamy after a preliminary study suggested it had a 2.7 percent chance of hitting the Earth during its 2029 flyby. Subsequent observations ruled out an impact in 2029, but astronomers were closely studying Apophis&rsquo return in 2036.

Now, new observations of asteroid Apophis recorded Wednesday (Jan.9) have revealed the space rock poses no real threat to the Earth in 2036, NASA officials said. Astronomers tracked the asteroid as Apophis made a distant flyby of Earth at a range of about 9.3 million miles (15 million kilometers).

"The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036,&rdquo Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, said in a statement. The office is based at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. [See Photos of Giant Asteroid Apophis]

"Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future," Yeomans said.

And that scientific interest will be high.

When Apophis buzzes the Earth on April 13, 2029, it will come within 19,400 miles (31,300 km) of our planet. That's closer than some geostationary satellites, which orbit the Earth at a range of 22,370 miles (36,000 km), and will be the closest flyby of an asteroid the size of Apophis in recorded history, NASA officials said.

"But much sooner, a closer approach by a lesser-known asteroid is going to occur in the middle of next month when a 40-meter-sized asteroid, 2012 DA14, flies safely past Earth's surface at about 17,200 miles," said Yeomans. "With new telescopes coming online, the upgrade of existing telescopes and the continued refinement of our orbital determination process, there's never a dull moment working on near-Earth objects."

Also on Wednesday, the European Space Agency announced that new observations of Apophis by the infrared Herschel Space Observatory revealed that the asteroid is about 1,066 feet (325 meters) wide, nearly 20 percent larger than a previous estimate of 885 feet (270 m). It is also 75 percent more massive than previous estimates, ESA officials said.

The new observations of asteroid Apophis this week were made by astronomers at the Magdalena Ridge observatory, operated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS telescope. The observations were combined with data from NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar to rule out any chance of a 2036 impact.

NASA astronomers regularly use telescopes on Earth and in space to search for any asteroids that may pose an impact threat to Earth.

NASA Analysis: Earth Is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for 100-Plus Years

The near-Earth object was thought to pose a slight risk of impacting Earth in 2068, but now radar observations have ruled that out.

After its discovery in 2004, asteroid 99942 Apophis had been identified as one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth. But that impact assessment changed as astronomers tracked Apophis and its orbit became better determined.

Now, the results from a new radar observation campaign combined with precise orbit analysis have helped astronomers conclude that there is no risk of Apophis impacting our planet for at least a century.

Estimated to be about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across, Apophis quickly gained notoriety as an asteroid that could pose a serious threat to Earth when astronomers predicted that it would come uncomfortably close in 2029. Thanks to additional observations of the near-Earth object (NEO), the risk of an impact in 2029 was later ruled out, as was the potential impact risk posed by another close approach in 2036. Until this month, however, a small chance of impact in 2068 still remained.
When Apophis made a distant flyby of Earth around March 5, astronomers took the opportunity to use powerful radar observations to refine the estimate of its orbit around the Sun with extreme precision, enabling them to confidently rule out any impact risk in 2068 and long after.

This animation depicts the orbital trajectory of asteroid 99942 Apophis as it zooms safely past Earth on April 13, 2029. Earth’s gravity will slightly deflect the trajectory as the 1,100-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) near-Earth object comes within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of our planet’s surface. The motion has been speeded up 2,000 times.

“A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometers to just a handful of kilometers when projected to 2029. This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future motion, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list.”

Farnocchia was referring to the Sentry Impact Risk Table. Maintained by CNEOS, the table keeps tabs on the few asteroids whose orbits take them so close to Earth that an impact can’t be ruled out. With the recent findings, the Risk Table no longer includes Apophis.

Relying on optical telescopes and ground-based radar to help characterize every known near-Earth object’s orbit to improve long-term hazard assessments, CNEOS computes high-precision orbits in support of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

These images of asteroid Apophis were recorded by radio antennas at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone complex in California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The asteroid was 10.6 million miles (17 million kilometers) away, and each pixel has a resolution of 127 feet (38.75 meters). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO

To arrive at the latest Apophis calculations, astronomers turned to the 70-meter (230-foot) radio antenna at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Barstow, California, to precisely track Apophis’ motion. “Although Apophis made a recent close approach with Earth, it was still nearly 10.6 million miles [17 million kilometers] away. Even so, we were able to acquire incredibly precise information about its distance to an accuracy of about 150 meters [490 feet],” said JPL scientist Marina Brozovic, who led the radar campaign. “This campaign not only helped us rule out any impact risk, it set us up for a wonderful science opportunity.”

Goldstone also worked in a collaboration with the 100-meter (330-foot) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia in order to enable imaging of Apophis Goldstone was transmitting while Green Bank was receiving – a “bistatic” experiment that doubled the strength of the received signal.

Although the radar imagery of Apophis appears pixelated, the images have a resolution of 38.75 meters (127 feet) per pixel, “which is a remarkable resolution, considering the asteroid was 17 million kilometers away, or about 44 times the Earth-Moon distance,” added Brozovic. “If we had binoculars as powerful as this radar, we would be able to sit in Los Angeles and read a dinner menu at a restaurant in New York.”

As the radar team further analyzes their data, they also hope to learn more about the asteroid’s shape. Previous radar observations have suggested that Apophis has a “bilobed,” or peanutlike, appearance. This is a relatively common shape among the near-Earth asteroids larger than 660 feet (200 meters) in diameter at least one in six have two lobes.

Astronomers are also working to develop a better understanding of the asteroid’s rotation rate and the axis it spins around (known as its spin state). That knowledge will enable them to determine the orientation the asteroid will have with Earth as it encounters our planet’s gravitational field in 2029, which could change that spin state and even cause “asteroid quakes.”

On April 13, 2029, the asteroid Apophis will pass less than 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) from our planet’s surface – closer than the distance of geosynchronous satellites. During that 2029 close approach, Apophis will be visible to observers on the ground in the Eastern Hemisphere without the aid of a telescope or binoculars. It’s also an unprecedented opportunity for astronomers to get a close-up view of a solar system relic that is now just a scientific curiosity and not an immediate hazard to our planet.

“When I started working with asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster child for hazardous asteroids,” said Farnocchia. “There’s a certain sense of satisfaction to see it removed from the risk list, and we’re looking forward to the science we might uncover during its close approach in 2029.”

Large asteroid Apophis will safely fly by Earth on Friday

Our solar system's most infamous asteroid will pass by Earth on Friday (March 5), and with a high-end telescope you can watch it as it safely whizzes by our planet.

We're talking about none other than asteroid 99942 Apophis, which will come even closer to Earth on April 13, 2029, when it passes through the zone of high-altitude satellites. But even then, Apophis won't hit Earth as some had predicted — so instead, let's focus on what science is coming from these flybys.

The near-Earth asteroid is roughly 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and was discovered in 2004. Initial early estimates suggested there was a small chance of Apophis hitting Earth in 2029, but scientists ruled out that possibility after looking at archival images, NASA said.

Even though the planet is not in danger, however, scientists will still appreciate the rare flybys in 20210 and 2029 to look at the shape of the asteroid — and perhaps even surface features in 2029 — in our ongoing study to learn more about asteroids, which have been around since early in the solar system's history (our neighborhood came together roughly 4.5 billion years ago).

Apophis' closest approach Friday will be at 0.11 astronomical units (an astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the sun, or roughly 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers). While the flyby is close in astronomical terms, Apophis will remain at a distance of 44 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.

Personal telescopes may struggle to see Apophis due to its faintness, as it's only going to have a visual magnitude of roughly 15 or 16, according to EarthSky. You'll either need a 12-inch diameter or larger telescope to spot it visually, or to equip a slightly smaller telescope with a sensitive camera to process the images for later viewing.

Your best chance to see it may be early on Saturday (May 6), when Unistellar Optics coordinates a citizen-science campaign to observe Apophis around the time it gets closest to Earth. From the perspective of viewers in parts of the U.S., between roughly 12:55 a.m. EST and 1:04 a.m. EST (0555 GMT and 0604 GMT), Apophis will pass in front of a star. The broad sweep of terrain where the event will be visible extends through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, and perhaps some bordering areas as well. A map and more details on calibrating a Unistellar eVscope are available in a company blog post.

Scientists love to use these close flybys to scan space rocks with radar to learn more about the asteroids' shape and rotation. Unfortunately, Earth's most powerful radar system is permanently offline, since the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico collapsed in December and is being dismantled.

The interim replacement is NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, which was scheduled to begin observations of the asteroid Wednesday (March 3) and continue through March 14. The space-based asteroid-hunting NEOWISE mission may also be able to spot the asteroid later in April, principal investigator Amy Mainzer told Space.com.

"I'm hoping we can get some details of the surface roughness, the thickness of any rocks and dust on the surface of the object," Mainzer said earlier this month, adding that the data would come from combining NEOWISE observations gathered in December 2020 and April 2021. "It may help us learn quite a bit more about it, if we're very lucky," she added.

While Apophis is not an imminent threat to Earth, scientists are running a planetary defense scenario pretending that they just spotted it in the sky in December, to prepare for a possible situation in the future. But you can rest easy, as there are no imminent threats known to Earth at this time — and NASA and its partners continue to scan the sky and practice disaster management, just in case.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Watch the video: Πτώση μετεωρίτη κάνει τη νύχτα μέρα


  1. Nawfal

    Couldn't you be wrong?

  2. Isen

    Well, thank you. Really blinked. Let's fix it now

  3. Burleigh

    Many thanks for the information, now I will know.

  4. Westby

    Quick answer, a sign of quick wits;)

  5. Colten

    Very amusing message

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