Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterYou think you’ve had some creepy Friday 13th’s? Wait until the 2029 asteroid flies by the Earth on Friday, April 13th, 2029. You will be able to look up and count your blessings. The asteroid 2004 mn4 will pass within 30,000 km of the Earth’s atmosphere. That is a far cry from what astronomers first thought about the 2029 asteroid. There was quite a bit of a stir. Many thought there was going to be an impact event.
The Earth is impacted by small asteroids and meteorites on a monthly basis. All of them are small enough to burn up in the atmosphere, leaving a nice light show as the only evidence of their passing. The 2029 asteroid would be a little different. The asteroid is 320 m wide. That is enough to destroy an area the size of the Quebec province if it hit land or to cause horrific tsunamis if it hit an ocean. A little chilling for an asteroid that was predicted to have a one in sixty chance of hitting the Earth. Dire predictions are typical of newly found asteroids, however.
When an asteroid is discovered, like 2004mn4, astronomers go through a four step process to assess its orbit and impact probability. Step 1 is the discovery of the asteroid. Step 2 is the calculating of an orbit. This is done with some very sketchy data and is rarely correct in the beginning. Step 3 looks into a possible Earth impact. Step 4 is where astronomers watch the solar body more intensely and realize they were wrong about the impact. Well, hopefully they are wrong.
What will happen to the 2029 asteroid is that its orbit will be bent by about 28 degrees. Since the same asteroid will pass the Earth again in 2035, that bend in its orbit makes it necessary that astronomers keep a close eye on the asteroid. There is no way to predict what path the asteroid will take after its close encounter with Earth, leaving open the possibility of an impact event in 2035.
The 2029 asteroid warrants close observation by the scientific community, but it will be watched by conspiracy theorists and sci-fi fans around the world as well. The danger posed by the 2029 asteroid should bring several governments together to think of a way to avoid an impact that could devastate several countries at once. Sort of many birds with one space stone.
NASA: Friday the 13th, 2029