The universe has always been a topic of great interest to us. The totality of space is not yet understood, but there are things that scientists have already been able to discover, understand at some level, and describe. In addition to the planets we know and the stars that we constantly see in the heavens, our solar system is full of other bodies.
An example of this is asteroids . They are rocky, metallic bodies that have a defined orbit around the sun. They are part of the smallest bodies in the solar system and are typically a few hundred kilometers long. Several of them have already passed close to our planet and some have even reached us, as in the time of the dinosaurs.
Lately, several large asteroids have passed close to our planet and made news. And those that will pass also end up becoming news and sometimes even cause for concern.
Last Friday, an asteroid the size of the Eiffel Tower passed by our planet. And according to NASA scientists, the next time it passes Earth, in 2029, it could collide with orbiting satellites.
The asteroid 99942 Apophis, named after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos, reached 16.5 million kilometers from Earth. As much as this is a comfortable distance, NASA scientists warn that it will reach 32,000 kilometers from Earth in 2029.
This distance is very close indeed. It is smaller than the distance between Earth and the moon. In addition to being close enough that the asteroid is at risk of colliding with high-altitude communication satellites. To get a sense of the proximity, NASA released a video showing how close Apophis will come to Earth.
This asteroid was first discovered in 2004. That year, researchers calculated that it could actually collide with our planet in 2029. Fortunately, NASA did other calculations and saw that it will pass Earth without touching it. And this will be a chance for them to be able to collect a lot of data about the asteroid.
“The approach of Apophis in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science. Let’s look at the asteroid with optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we may be able to see details on the surface that are just a few meters in size,” said Marina Brozović, radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The asteroid Apophis is 341 meters wide, which is approximately three football fields, or slightly larger than the Eiffel Tower. This asteroid is so big that when it passes again, it will be so close to our planet that you can see it with the naked eye. His handover will take place in April 2029.
Apophis’ distance from Earth will allow scientists to study it and collect data about its composition.
After this 2029 pass, Apophis will have other encounters with Earth. The asteroid will pass our planet in 2036 and 2068. In 2036 there is no chance it will collide with Earth. However, NASA calculations suggest that there is a chance in 380,000 that Apophis will collide with Earth in 2068.