Experts warn that an asteroid called "God of Chaos" is gaining speed as it moves on its path toward Earth, and it could strike our planet within 48 years.
Astronomers at the University of Hawaii confirmed that the huge asteroid, named after "Apophis" (the god of chaos), accelerated in its path due to the irregular radiation, which acts as a small nudge.
Prior to the discovery, impact was said to be impossible, but the new findings indicate the asteroid has a chance to collide with Earth on April 12, 2068 - and that could be catastrophic.
Apophis is more than 1,000 feet wide, and will have an impact of 880 million tons equivalent to a three-nitrotoluene (TNT) explosion in one go.
The asteroid was discovered on June 19, 2004 by astronomers, at the Kit Beck National Observatory in Arizona.
Since then, the asteroid has been tracked as it orbits around the sun, in a cycle that completes it with less than a year on Earth.
The researchers monitored "Apophis" with the "Subaru" telescope earlier this year, and determined that its speed increased after the analysis, known as the "Yarkovsky" effect.
When the asteroid body is heated in sunlight, it radiates energy away as heat, which acts as small nudges for the cosmic body.
Dave Thulin, one of the astronomers, said: “The new observations that we obtained with the Subaru telescope were good enough to detect Yarkovsky’s acceleration to Apophis, and showed that the asteroid is drifting away from a purely gravitational orbit, approximately 170 meters per year, which is what It suffices to continue the 2068 impact scenario.
Apophis has also been awarded the title of the third highest threat on NASA's Tracking Risk Table, according to Gizmodo reports.
The table estimates that there is a 1 in 150,000 chance of an asteroid colliding with Earth within 48 years, but Thulen told Gizmodo that the odds are closer to 1 in 530,000 - this number explains the Yarkovsky effect.
The asteroid contains nickel and iron, and radar images indicate that it is elongated, making it appear like a peanut.
The researchers noted that more observations must be made in order to fully understand the breadth of the Yarkovsky effect, and how it affects the orbit of Apophis. They plan to "see if there is any chance of an impact before 2068."
When Apophis was first discovered, experts said there was a 2.7% chance of a collision with Earth in 2029, but data now show that it will pass safely within 1,974 miles of Earth.
Source: Daily Mail