Show Hide image

Asteroid incoming! A cosmic close shave

Asteroid Apophis will pass over earth at midnight.

A 300 metre wide asteroid with the potential to strike earth in 2036 will fly overhead this evening.

Apophis, aptly named after an evil Egyptian mythological demon of destruction, will today come within 14.4 million kilometres (nine million miles) of our planet.

In 2029 it is expected to return to earth, shaving past at 30,000 km. That is less than one-tenth the distance of the moon and inside the orbit of some communication satellites.

When the asteroid was discovered in 2004, scientists calculated that there was a one in 45 chance that it would strike earth in 2029. Improved predictions later lifted the threat.

Scientists say there is still a remote chance it may collide with earth in 2036.

According to NASA, if Apophis were to strike earth it would generate a blast around 100,000 times more powerful than the nuclear strike over Hiroshima in 1945.

Most asteroids are found in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. Apophis, however, belongs to the Aten family, which are usually found between earth and the sun.

Space enthusiasts will be able to view Apophis’ approach online via Slooch Space Camera. The images will be provided by a robotic telescope located in the Canary Islands beginning at midnight GMT.

Employing a battery of optical, radio and infrared telescopes, scientists hope to use today’s encounter to gauge the asteroid’s threat. Both the asteroid’s mass and the way it is spinning are vital to make precise calculations about the Apophis’ trajectory.

In October the Russian space agency announced plans to land tracking beacons on the asteroid in 2020.

Show Hide image

Goldsmiths diversity officer Bahar Mustafa receives court summons in wake of “#KillAllWhiteMen” outcry

Mustafa will answer charges of "threatening" and "offensive/ indecent/ obscene/ menacing" communications.

In May this year, Bahar Mustafa, then diversity officer at Goldsmiths, University of London, posted a Facebook message requesting that men and white people not attend a BME Women and non-binary event. There was an immediate backlash from those also enraged by the fact that Mustafa allegedly used the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen on social media. 

Today, Mustafa received a court summons from the Metropolitan Police to answer two charges, both of which come under the Communications Act 2003. The first is for sending a "letter/communication/article conveying a threatening message"; the second for "sending by public communication network an offensive/ indecent/ obsecene/ menacing message/ matter".

It isn't clear what communciation either charge relates to - one seems to refer to something sent in private, while the use of "public communication network" in the second implies that it took place on social media. The Met's press release states that both communciations took place between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015, a very broad timescale considering the uproar around Mustafa's social media posts took place in May. 

We approached the Met to ask which communications the summons refers to, but a spokesperson said that no more information could be released at this time. Mustafa will appear at Bromley Magistrates' Court on 5 November. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.