Not to mention, it will be on April 13, 2029, a Friday. A near apocalyptic miss on the asteroid's part there but it will be very close to Earth for a short period of time, just enough for us to see its 1,000-foot wide mass grazing some of our satellites and barely scraping the outer edges of the Earth's atmosphere.
That asteroid, called Apophis, stretches about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across and will pass within 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) of Earth's surface. That might sound scary, but scientists are positive that it will not hit Earth. Instead, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for scientists to truly understand asteroids near Earth.
"The excitement is that an object this large comes this close about once per thousand years, so it's all about, What's the opportunity?" Richard Binzel, a planetary scientist at MIT, said yesterday (April 30) during the International Academy of Aeronautics' Planetary Defense Conference, which is being held here this week. The asteroid's proximity and size will also add to the encounter's brightness, so Apophis will capture eyeballs — about 2 billion people should be able to see it pass by with their naked eyes, he said.
Hopefully, we will be some of the lucky ones to see the asteroid in its full splendor. On another note, a few key point that scientists have been discussing are how the Earth's gravitational pull as well as the sun's radiation (called Yarkovsky effect) will affect Apophis' orbit.
That phenomenon, called the Yarkovsky effect, results from the temperature differential between the day and night sides of the asteroid. The tweaks the Yarkovsky effect cause in an asteroid's orbit are so small that scientists struggle to distinguish the nudges from instrument hiccups.
Although scientists have pinpointed Apophis' trajectory in 2029 to within a path just 7.4 miles (12 km) wide that stays thousands of miles away from Earth, they can't quite rule out possible impacts decades in the future — and that's in part because of uncertainty about the Yarkovsky effect.
Other ideas of using this opportunity to further study asteroids have also been popping up. Some even suggest putting a seismometer on Apophis like what previous missions such as the Mars InSight did or sending a probe to explore it like what Hayabusa2 did on the asteroid Ryugu.
Whatever scientists do in response to this opportunity or phenomenon, I'm just grateful that we will live to see it and not have to run in panic and find shelter before the big asteroid blows our Earth to smithereens. The rest is up to the planetary defense teams and asteroid experts.
-via Popular Mechanics
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)