The deadly asteroid Apophis is safely passing by Earth today, more than 14.5 million kilometres from our home planet. Next time, we won’t be so lucky. On April 13, 2029, Apophis will come so close that it may destroy satellites in orbit.
Although it is flying past safely, if it were to impact its power would be about 880 megatons — about 17 Tsars, the biggest nuclear bomb ever created. The good news is that Apophis is still small enough not to kill us all, but it could disrupt life on the planet for a few decades. For comparison, the Chicxulub asteroid released about 100,000,000 megatons when it triggered the mass extinction event that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs.
In 2029 we’ll be safe from Apophis mayhem too. The asteroid will not hit Earth then, say astronomers, but it will pass within 36,000 kilometres of Earth’s surface, closer even than the orbits of geostationary satellites.
This means that, while our pale blue dot would be spared, our highly populated constellation of satellites may suffer some casualties.
Nobody knows exactly if a satellite collision may occur. Space is awfully big, but there are plenty of satellites out there. Enough that it’s not crazy to think that some of them may be wiped out as we watch Apophis marching through the night sky. Learn more here or here.