Earthlings may feel some relief for now, as NASA has confirmed that our planet is safe from a particularly worrisome asteroid for at least the next century.
99942 Apophis, which was discovered in 2004, had been identified as one of the most dangerous asteroids that could impact the planet. But the results of a new radar observation campaign, combined with an accurate orbit analysis, have helped astronomers conclude that Apophis will not hit Earth in 2068, as fear had been.
It is estimated to be about 350 meters wide when Apophis, named after the Egyptian god of destruction, made a flyby of Earth in early March. NASA declares to its scientists took the opportunity to use powerful radar observations to refine the estimate of its orbit around the Sun with extreme precision, allowing them to safely rule out no impact risk in 2068 and much later.
“Although Apophis recently approached Earth, it was still nearly 10 million miles away. Still, we were able to acquire incredibly accurate information about its distance with an accuracy of about 150 meters. [490 feet]”Said Marina Brozovic, a JPL scientist, who led the radar campaign. “This campaign not only helped us rule out any risk of impact, it prepared us for a wonderful scientific opportunity.”
On April 13, 2029, NASA says the asteroid will pass within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of our planet’s surface. During that close approach, Apophis will be visible to observers on the ground in the eastern hemisphere without the aid of a telescope or binoculars.
NASA explains that this creates an unparalleled opportunity for astronomers to get an up-close view of a relic of the solar system.
“When I started working with asteroids after college, Apophis was the example of dangerous asteroids,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. “There is some satisfaction in seeing that it was removed from the risk list, and we are eager to learn the science that we could discover during its next approach in 2029.”
It seems that we should all be writing in our journals about an incredible opportunity to observe the night sky 8 years from now.
(WATCH the video about the asteroid Apophis below).
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