Updated: May 8, 2019 4:45:03 pm
A giant asteroid named 99942 Apophis will pass Earth on April 13, 2029, which is nearly a decade in waiting, but scientists are already preparing for this important celestial event which is being seen as a major scientific opportunity. According to NASA scientists, this asteroid is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) or those that could collide with Earth and cause damage.
99942 Apophis will cruise harmlessly by Earth, according to NASA, but it will come very close to our planet at around 19,000 miles or 31,000 km above the surface. This is the distance at which some of the spacecraft are orbiting Earth, explains NASA. The asteroid will travel “the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper,” explains NASA.
The asteroid is 340-meter-wide and it is being seen as an opportunity for science since asteroids of this size rarely pass by Earth at such a close distance.
“The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs) in a press statement.
“We’ll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few meters in size,” she added.
The asteroid will also be visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere. It will be seen from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. The trajectory of the asteroid indicates it will then cross the Indian Ocean, and by the afternoon in the eastern US it will have crossed the equator, still moving west, above Africa. At closest approach, just before 6 pm EDT, Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean and by 7 pm EDT, the asteroid will have crossed over the United States.
Aphosis was discovered in June 2004 and initial observations revealed that the asteroid had a 2.7 per cent chance of impacting Earth in 2029, though later ones ruled this out.
NASA’s press release also states that current calculations show that Apophis still has a small chance of impacting Earth, less than 1 in 100,000 many decades from now. Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS explained that “By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense.”
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