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“This thing is oblong, it’s tumbling, the size of the Empire State building, and moving toward you at the speed of a bullet, and you’ve got only one chance!”
Enter 99924 Apophis, the massive asteroid due to pass Earth on Friday, February 13, 2029. So close it can be viewed with a standard pair of binoculars. The size of two football fields, weighing 60 million tons, the current record holder on both the Torino Impact Scale and the Palermo Hazard Scale. It circles the sun in an orbit overlapping that of the Earth.
20,000 miles above us lies what scientists call the ‘keyhole’, a precise region in space, half a mile wide. If Apophis passes through this keyhole, its orbit will be bent to put it on a path of direct impact when it returns seven years later on Friday, April 13, 2036. It returns for another pass in 2068. And so on. And we still have no plan for dealing with it.
With the potential to wipe out one-third of the world’s population
Meet the team: Katie Peterson, the gifted college student with a knack for astronomy. Idealistic, fearless and passionate, she is the heart of a team focused on developing a plan to deflect the asteroid. Howard Bell, the quirky, ubersmart astrophysics graduate student. And Robert Acey, Professor of Astrophysics at Colorado University, mentor to them both.
Working with the best and brightest that JPL and NASA have to offer, they combine efforts to keep Apophis directly in their crosshairs. Can they intercept this dangerous asteroid? Can they divert it? And keep it from slamming into our planet?