Asteroid ‘bigger than the Eiffel Tower’ could smash into Earth in 48 years

A huge asteroid could collide with the Earth in 2068, researchers have claimed.

The massive rock, ominously dubbed the 'God of Chaos', may smash into the planet in just 48 years.

The asteroid, officially called Apophis, is estimated to measure 340 metres in diameter, which would make it even bigger than the Eiffel Tower, the Mirror Online reports.

In a study experts at the University of Hawaii observed the rock speeding up due to "non-uniform thermal radiation".

All asteroids radiate energy from sunlight as heat, in order to maintain a constant temperature. In the process, this slightly alters the orbit of the asteroid.

And the way in which Apophis is doing this indicates that it could speed up enough to collide with Earth in 2068.

However, that will not be the first time the asteroid comes dangerously close to our planet.

On April 13, 2029, it is predicted that Apophis will be so close to Earth that it will be visible with the naked eye in space.

Dave Tholen, who led the study, said: "We have known for some time that for an impact with Earth is not possible during the 2029 approach.

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“The new observations we obtained with the Subaru telescope earlier this year were good enough to reveal the Yarkovsky acceleration of Apophis, and they show that the asteroid is drifting away from a purely gravitational orbit by about 170 meters per year, which is enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario in play.”

During the predicted passing in 2029, NASA will closely monitor the asteroid.

Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science.

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“We’ll 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."

If Apophis is found to be on a collision course for Earth in 2068, NASA has several tactics up its sleeve to prevent a collision.

The organisation explained: "One of the techniques suggested for deflecting an asteroid includes nuclear fusion weapons set off above the surface to slightly change the asteroid’s velocity without fracturing it.

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“High speed neutrons from the explosion would irradiate a shell of material on the surface of the asteroid facing the explosion. The material in this surface shell would then expand and blow off, thus producing a recoil upon the asteroid itself.

“A very modest velocity change in the asteroid’s motion (only a few millimeters per second), acting over several years, can cause the asteroid to miss the Earth entirely. However, the trick is to gently nudge the asteroid out of harm’s way and not to blow it up.

“This latter option, though popular in the movies, only creates a bigger problem when all the pieces encounter the Earth.

“Another option that has been discussed includes the establishment of large solar sails on a small threatening object so that the pressure of sunlight could eventually redirect the object away from its predicted Earth collision.”

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