As massive space rock is expected to sweep past Earth in the not-quite-distant future; scientists warn that there is a probability, however small, that it may collide with our planet, The Sun reports.
The asteroid in question, Apophis, is named after the ancient Egyptian deity embodying chaos and is about 370 meters in diameter, slightly greater than, for example, the height of the Bank of America skyscraper in New York City; the explosion it may produce upon impact could be "the equivalent of 1,200 million tons of TNT or about 80,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs".
According to the newspaper, while astronomers had previously been confident that the asteroid would miss Earth, they've since discovered that "it is wavering off its path and picking up speed as it does so".
"The asteroid is drifting away from a purely gravitational orbit by about 170 meters per year, which is enough to keep the 2068 impact scenario in play," astronomer Dr. Dave Tholen said.
Having reportedly named "in their diaries" 12 April, 2068 as the possible "collision day", the University of Hawaii astronomers that the asteroid's course is being affected by the so called Yarkovsky effect that "occurs as the asteroid absorbs and then radiates heat from the Sun", which results in the side of the asteroid "where more heat is radiated" getting "an additional thrust throwing the asteroid off the course set by gravitational force".
"It’s such a tiny force that it’s not noticeable for larger objects but the smaller the object, the easier it is to detect the effect", Dr Tholen, one of the men who discovered Apophis, remarked.
The newspaper also points out that while the "latest calculations" suggest that the odds of the asteroid colliding with our planet and causing "global devastation" are about one in 150,000, Dr. Tholen believes the "real chances of an impact in 2068" are closer to one in 530,000.