‘Doomsday’ asteroid more massive than first thought

‘Doomsday’ asteroid more massive than first thought

Astronomers following the so-called doomsday asteroid Apophis, which will be whizzing past Earth on Thursday morning, have found the rock is much larger than had previously been assumed. Since the asteroid could hit Earth in 2036, that’s a problem.

The asteroid, named after an Egyptian god of death, had been thought to be around 885 feet (270 meters) wide, plus or minus a couple of hundred feet (60 meters). But as Apophis approached last weekend, astronomers at the Herschel Space Observatory took new observations and have concluded that astronomers have seriously underestimated both its size and its mass.

“The 20 per cent increase in diameter, from 270 to 325m, translates into a 75 per cent increase in our estimates of the asteroid’s volume or mass,” said Thomas Müller of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

“These numbers are first estimates based on the Herschel measurements alone, and other ongoing ground-based campaigns might produce additional pieces of information which will allow us to improve our results.”

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