Fortunately it is very unlikely that Apophis will collide with Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA is making preparations to study a large asteroid that is expected to pass within 19,000 miles of Earth.
Named ominously after the Egyptian god of chaos, Apophis measures 340 meters across and was first spotted by astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona in June 2004.
What made it particularly remarkable at the time was the fact that it seemed to have a 2.7% chance of striking the Earth in 2029, however this has since been revised down to just 1 in 100,000.
Even so, when it does skim past Earth in ten years' time it will pass so close to our planet that scientists will have a unique opportunity to study it up close.
To this end, NASA and other space agencies will be keen to prepare well in advance.
"The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science," said JPL radar scientist Marina Brozovic. "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."
Apophis will even be visible to the naked eye - giving amateur stargazers a chance to see it too.
"Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs)," said Paul Chodas of JPL's Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS).
"By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense."
Source: Independent | Comments (16)