The international asteroid research community recently shared some exciting news. A 340-meter wide asteroid, called 99942 Apophis, first discovered in 2004, will pass Earth on April 13, 2029. It will be visible in the night sky, getting as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper constellation.
Although the event is 10 years away, scientists from all over the world will meet this week at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference to discuss their plans to observe the celestial body and, hopefully, they can arrange for some interesting missions to send to the asteroid to get a close-up look at its shape, composition, and interior.
The asteroid is currently being observed with optical and radar telescopes, in order to gain information about the object’s surface and its trajectory. The event is considered so important due to the asteroid’s size. Scientists have encountered smaller asteroids flying at a similar distance in the past, but it’s extremely rare for an object as large as Apophis to pass Earth so close.
Scientists Gather To Discuss An Asteroid That Will Pass Earth In 2029
Apophis will be flying over the Earth from the east to the west, first becoming visible to the naked eye over the Southern Hemisphere. When the asteroid was first detected, initial calculations revealed it had a 2.7% chance of hitting Earth. Later observations concluded that the possibility of an impact is almost null.
At this week’s conference, researchers will discuss the main points of interests regarding 99942 Apophis. One of the principal concerns is the way Earth’s gravity will affect the asteroid’s trajectory. According to Davide Farnocchia, an astronaut at JPL’s CNEOS, scientists already know the close encounter with our planet will alter the asteroid’s orbit, with small chances of changing the way it spins, which could cause small avalanches.
Important scientific information could be gained as Aphophis passes our planet, which could prove to be extremely helpful one day in defending Earth from potential threats.