Grim astronomers in Russia have recalculated the trajectory of the ominous asteroid Apophis and now predict it will slam into Earth on April 13, 2036.
An asteroid struck the Yucatan basin 65 million years ago wiping out the dinosaurs, changing the climate, and destroying much of life on Earth.
The asteroid's name, Apophis, is the Greek name for the Egyptian god Apep, also known as "the Uncreator."
"Apophis will approach Earth at a distance of 37,000 to 38,000 kilometers on April 13, 2029. Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036," Professor Leonid Sokolov of the St. Petersburg State University stated during an interview with state television and reported by Russian news service RIA Novosti.
As more astronomers are recognizing the danger, a major summit has been called. "Russian space officials and members of the European Commission will meet in early July to discuss joining forces against thousands of potentially hazardous asteroids," Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos stated in an official press release.
Although large meteors and asteroids whiz by our planet every year—and thousands of tons of space debris falls through our atmosphere annually—Apophis, first seen during 2004, is considered by scientists to be the most imminent threat to the human race.
While Russian and European scientists have increased their warnings of the approaching danger the asteroid poses, NASA has charted a different course. In 2010 the American space agency announced it had reduced the chances the object's disastrous collision with Earth.
Sokolov believes the project is urgent as each day that passes will make it more difficult to steer the asteroid with current technology.
As nations around the world have recognized the threat large space objects such as comets and asteroids pose to life on Earth, no global defense plan has been developed to meet a possible emergency. Without a plan and effective defense, catastrophe might result.
A meeting scheduled for July 7, 2011 will consider a proposal to launch a joint asteroid project between Russia and the European Union.
In an interview on Russian television following the press release, Perminov said, "I received a letter, in which the European Commission proposes to meet on July 7 in Roscosmos with scientists and engineers of the Federal Space Agency, the Russian Academy of Sciences and other institutions and organizations. At the meeting, the Russian bid to start a joint project with the EU will be considered."
50 million Hiroshima bombs
Roscosmos has its own cable channel. Recently it released calculations based on the data gathered from nuclear weapons tests, that reveal asteroids with diameters of one to two kilometers are sufficient to initiate massive climate change after an impact with Earth.
The figures show that a collision with an object of such a mass would generate the equivalent of one million megatons of TNT—or put another way—approximately 50 million of the type of atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
And that, of course, is enough to destroy all of modern civilization.
Forces of Doomsday
Rosomov warns that an impact by an object the size and mass of Apophis, traveling at the speed it does, would create indescribable kinetic energies and release the forces of Doomsday. Such an asteroid strike would create a crater at least 1,000 kilometers across and catapult billions of tons of dust and soot into the atmosphere. The so-called "nuclear winter" would follow immediately and plunge the entire world into the depths of a major Ice Age lasting thousands, even tens of thousands of years.
"In recent years, the attention of scientists, technicians, politicians and the military has become increasingly focused on the asteroid and comet hazard, namely the threat of the Earth's collision with large space bodies," Perminov stated. "It is caused by the fact that special supervision programs led to a dramatic increase in the number of such objects being detected, and the new information allowed to gain a new insight into the problem."
Spacefaring countries have all launched asteroid tracking projects designed to identify and calculate objects that may present a clear and present danger to the planet. NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT), Deep Space 1, Deep Impact, Dawn and Stardust, as well as ESA's Rosetta and JAXA's Hayabusa are some of the most well known.
"Our task is to consider various alternatives and develop scenarios and plans of action depending on the results of further observations of Apophis," Sokolov said.