Asteroid could hit Earth in 2029 - Russian astronomer

Society Materials 2 October 2007 07:45

( RIA Novosti ) - An asteroid, discovered in 2004, could pose a threat to Earth in 2029, the director of the Institute of Astronomy said Monday.

Boris Shustov said at an international space forum in Moscow that the Apophis asteroid, which is due to cross earth's orbit in 2029 at a height of 27,000 km (17,000 miles), could under certain conditions hit Earth in 2029.

The explosion could surpass the famous Tunguska explosion of June 30, 1908, which affected a 2,150 square kilometer (830 sq miles) area of Russia felling over 80 million trees in the Krasnoyarsk Territory in Siberia.

The meteoroid's air blast was estimated to be between 10 and 20 megatons in TNT equivalent or 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The explosion caused a shockwave around 5.0 on the Richter scale.

However, the asteroid is not likely to repeat the plot of Hollywood blockbusters, as modern technology would allow the asteroid's orbit to be corrected using small satellites, Shustov said.

"To blast an asteroid, as some hot shots suggest, is quite an unpredictable step, and a more cautious approach is welcomed now," he said.

He said that a microsatellite with 10 liters of fuel could correct the path of the space body.

Last month a mystery object, believed to be a meteorite, fell to earth in a remote Peruvian region causing a crater 30 meters (98.5ft) wide and 6 meters (19.6ft) deep. Local residents, including policemen who collected samples from the site, complained of vomiting and nausea.