What do we say to the god of death?
“See you in 10 years!”
According to the latest data from NASA, the Earth has an appointment with a 335-meter-wide asteroid in 2029. The giant space rock has the proper codename: 99942 Apophis, the Greek name of an Egyptian snake god bent on swallowing the sun. (For the record, it is also the name of a character from “Stargate-SG1” with a similar motivation).
But there is no need to be scared. Apophis will not impact the Earth by a healthy margin of 30,000 kilometers. Even so, its size and distance relatively close to Earth means that its flyby will be a special time for astronomers and other scientists.
“The approach of Apophis in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a NASA statement. According to NASA, it is relatively rare for such a large object to pass so close to Earth.
“We will observe the asteroid with optical and radar telescopes,” said Brozović. “With the radar observations, we could see details of the surface that only measure a few meters.”
In fact, Apophis can even be visible to the naked eye as a bright spot of light.
“As the asteroid passes over the Atlantic Ocean, its trajectory changes briefly from red to gray, that is the moment of closest approach”, explains a predictive model of NASA. “After reaching its closest point, the asteroid will move into the daytime sky and will no longer be visible.”
This is the astroid will look when it passes Earth.