Why I worry about Apophis
To clarify, I am not worried about the Egyptian God of doom Apophis, although as far as 2020 is concerned anything might happen.
I am worried about asteroid 2004 MN4 (also known as 99942 Apophis).
The name was inspired after the researcher’s favorite show at the time: STARGATE. Sci-fi and science inspire each other once again.
For a brief moment, it was put on level 4 on the Torino Scale for impact hazard. The highest any asteroid of its size had been put. After data was refined and further collected the hazard level was set to 0.
If you want to read more about the asteroid, click here and it will take you to its NASA JPL site.
So why do you fear something science has deemed safe?
I don’t fear it will hit us. I fully trust the science and the data, which states that: it will come close but not hit us.
No, I don’t fear the asteroid, I fear the hysteria it will cause once media (social or otherwise) starts reporting on it.
If recent crisis e.g. Y2K (with the exception of pandemics, where everything was wrongfully downplayed!!!!) have taught me anything is that facts, fear and reporting of science don’t go hand in hand. Fear is revenue, and this will be a collective near death experience worth reporting on for at least good two weeks upon it’s approach.
Distance for asteroid is (among other things) measured via lunar distance, LD. The distance between us and the moon. 1 LD = approx 384,402 km (238,856 mi). Distance varies, but this is a mean value.
Let’s say we have an LD of 19, it will roughly translate to 7 303 638 km. The closest approaches by large near earth objects in April and June have been between 16–19 LD. Smaller ones have come closer.
Sure, the asteroids were big! But they were also 7–5 MILLION kilometres away, and these are the headlines.
The BBC wrote this, and added a visual to make it seem as if it’s right above us.
Some news outlets (Like the Forbes) add the: but it won’t hit us disclaimer. Will they continue once “who can make it more dangerous” competition starts among the networks?
Very few asteroids of the size of 99942 Apophis come less within than 1 LD of earth. Apophis will come 0,1 LD, visible with our bare eyes given the right conditions. It might perhaps knock a few satellites out.
And oh, it will return in 2036 and it might come even closer in 2068 in which it has a 1:150 000 chance of impact (but still unlikely to impact). So this will be with us for a very long time.
When something of the size of the empire state building is heading our way, it becomes a very good visual for fear. And fear there will be. Trust me.
What I worry it will lead to
Chaos, looting, shooting. To start off with. Death cults, murder, increased suicide, disregard for the environment i.e. more fires, oil spills ect (because it’s all going to go away anyway), stockpiling, and well, political instability.
Sounds like a horrible scenario? Alarmist? Human behavior in face of danger is unpredictable and illogical, we know that, we have seen it over and over again.
How can we prevent this?
Get educated, yes it’s a decade away, but it goes a lot faster than you think. Get REALLY educated on it, and when people start spreading misinformation, correct them. Call out media when they purposefully twist words of astrophysicist. Teach your kids to do the same.
And what if it goes south and it actually hits us?
Trust me, no body is going around twirling their thumbs, if things and calculations change, you will hear about it and there are some safety measures and evacuation procedures. They will probably develop over the years.
And let’s face it, at any moment we might get hit. Live smart, be careful, and wash your hands and focus on renewable energy.
It might not prevent an asteroid, but it will help the current two crisis we need to worry about.