Q. Discuss the scientific significance of studying asteroid Apophis, the potential risks associated with its future trajectory, and the international efforts underway to mitigate any potential impact threat. (10 Marks, 150 words)

Core Demand of the Question:

  • Discuss the scientific significance of studying asteroid Apophis.
  • Highlight the potential risks associated with its future trajectory.
  • Enumerate the international efforts underway to mitigate its potential impact.


Asteroid 99942 Apophis, a near-Earth object (NEO) has captured significant attention due to its potential close approach to Earth on April 13, 2029. Discovered in 2004, this asteroid will pass a few kilometres away from Earth, which is remarkably close in astronomical terms, moving at a speed of 29.98 km per second.

Scientific Significance of Studying Asteroid Apophis:

  • Understanding Near-Earth Objects (NEOs): Studying Apophis provides valuable data on NEOs, enhancing our understanding of their compositionbehaviour, and impact potential.
    For instance: Insights from Apophis can improve prediction models for other NEOs.
  • Impact Mechanics: Research on Apophis helps scientists comprehend the mechanics of asteroid impacts, crucial for assessing potential future collisions.
    For instance: Analysing Apophis’s trajectory can refine impact probability calculations.
  • Planetary Defence: By studying Apophis, scientists can develop strategies for deflecting or mitigating asteroid threats, contributing to planetary defence initiatives.
    For instance: Data from Apophis aids in designing deflection missions.
  • Surface Composition Analysis: Apophis’s close approach allows for detailed analysis of its surface composition, which can inform us about the early solar system.
    For instance: Surface studies reveal the asteroid’s mineralogical properties.
  • Public Awareness and Preparedness: Understanding Apophis’s characteristics and risks raises public awareness about asteroid threats and the importance of space research.
    For instance: Media coverage of Apophis highlights the need for ongoing space monitoring.

Potential Risks Associated with Its Trajectory to Earth:

  • Close Approach in 2029: Apophis will pass within 38,012 kilometres of Earth in 2029, posing a significant risk of gravitational interactions affecting its future path.
  • Future Impact Possibility: Initial assessments indicated a potential collision in 2036, but ongoing observations, including a radar observation in March 2021, have ruled out this possibility.
  • Global Devastation Potential: If Apophis were to impact Earth, it could cause regional to global-scale destruction, depending on the impact location and angle.
  • Tsunami and Atmospheric Effects: An ocean impact could generate massive tsunamis, while a land impact could lead to severe atmospheric disturbances and climatic changes.

International Efforts to Mitigate Its Potential Impact Threat

  • NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO): NASA’s PDCO monitors Apophis and other NEOs, coordinating efforts to track and characterise their trajectories.
  • ESA’s Hera Mission: The European Space Agency’s Hera mission, part of the AIDA collaboration, aims to study the Didymos asteroid system to develop deflection techniques applicable to Apophis.
  • OSIRIS-REx Mission: NASA redirected its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, renaming it OSIRIS-Apophis EXplorer (OSIRIS-APEX), to study Apophis during its 2029 flyby.
  • ISRO’s Involvement: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) plans to observe Apophis during its close approach, collaborating with other space agencies like JAXA, ESA, and NASA. ISRO aims to contribute instruments or other support to enhance understanding of asteroids and planetary defence strategies.
  • Public and Astronomical Visibility: Apophis will be visible to observers in the Eastern Hemisphere without telescopes or binoculars, providing a rare opportunity for astronomers to study the asteroid.

By studying Apophis, scientists not only enhance our understanding of NEOs but also develop critical strategies to protect Earth from potential asteroid impacts. International collaboration remains essential in this endeavour, ensuring a coordinated and effective response to any future threats. The commitment of organisations like ISRO, NASA, and ESA underscores the global effort required to safeguard our planet from cosmic threats.

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