A year ago former Astronaut Russell Schweickart called on Congress to fund a mission to study whether or not Asteroid 2004 MN4 will strike the Earth in 2029 by placing a radio transponder on the asteroid for more precise measurements of its orbit.
Now it’s thought that the asteroid has a better chance of striking the Earth in 2036–April 13th, to be precise.
The odds of a collision are 1/6250 and, while that’s a long shot at the racetrack, the stakes are too high for astronomers to ignore.
Apophis represents the most imminent threat from the worst type of natural disaster known, one reason NASA is spending millions to detect the threat from this and other asteroids.
A direct hit on an urban area could unleash more destruction than Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake combined.
The blast would equal 880 million tons of TNT, or 65,000 times the power of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
It’s not a certainty, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly a possibility that within our lifetime an asteroid could impact with the Earth.
Astroid Apophis (or 2004 MN4) wouldn’t be an Extinction-Level Event (as seen in films like Deep Impact or Armageddon), but it would do a great deal of damage. Altering the asteroid’s orbit is possible, but it would be difficult. Making precise measurements of the asteroid’s orbit will allow humanity to make an informed decision on how to deflect the asteroid, if necessary, from its collision with Earth.