A Massive 1,100-Foot-Wide Asteroid Is On Course To Pass By Earth In A Decade

NASA revealed that a massive asteroid will pass close to Earth within the same distance as spacecraft that orbit the planet on Friday, April 13, 2029. The 1,100-foot-wide space rock named 99942 Apophis will shoot across our sky like a “moving star-like point of light”, appearing brighter and faster. On April 13, 2029, at 19,000 miles above the earth’s surface, the asteroid will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky from the east coast to the west coast of Australia over the Southern Hemisphere.

It will then pass across the Indian ocean, travel west above Africa, then crossover the Atlantic Ocean in just an hour, reaching the US by evening.

According to NASA, it is rare for an asteroid of this size to pass so close to Earth. Several smaller asteroids ranging in size from 10-20 meters have been spotted at similar distances but asteroids the size of Apophis are much scarcer.

NASA scientists discussed the observation and science opportunities for the celestial event at the 2019 Planetary Defence Conference held last Maryland. According to them, Apophis will travel more than the width of the full Moon in less than a minute and will shine brightly as the stars in the Little Dipper constellation.

Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said, “The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science. 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.

Not Armageddon In Real Life

When a team of astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory discovered Apophis in 2004, it did not appear harmless. The initial orbital calculations exposed that the large size asteroid had a 2.7% chance of impacting Earth in 2029. Fortunately, additional observations completely ruled out this ominous possibility. It is now estimated that the Apophis still has a tiny chance of impacting Earth , approximately less than 1 in 100,000 ,several decades from now.

Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JLP’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies said, “We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis’ orbit, but our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches.”

Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS said, “Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids. By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.

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