The asteroid Apophis will not affect Earth for at least a century, NASA finds

The asteroid 99942 Apophis is considered to be the most dangerous asteroid with the potential to affect Earth since its discovery in 2004. Now, scientists have corrected that opinion after a precise analysis of the planet’s orbit.

Earlier forecasts noted that the 1,291-foot-wide asteroid could be very close to rest in 2029, 2036 and has little chance of having an impact on Earth in 2068.

It most recently passed on March 5 at a distance of 10 million miles from Earth.

During that distant flyby, astronomers used radar observations to better handle the orbits of planets around the Sun. Their results allowed them to rule out any threat to the Earth in 2068. Previous concerns about 2029 and 2036 were already put on hold due to forecast correction and revision.

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“The impact of 2068 is no longer in the realm of possibility, and our calculations will show no risk of impact for at least the next 100 years,” said David Farnochia, NASA-engineer and researcher at NASA’s Center-Near Earth Ject Budget Studies. CNEOS), in a statement.

“With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations, the orbital uncertainty of the Apophis has dropped from hundreds of kilometers to just a few kilometers, while 2029 is projected.” “This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future momentum, so we can now remove Apophis from the list of risks.”

CNEOS The center maintains a risk list, tracking asteroids with orbits that bring them closer to Earth – close enough to cause concern about potential impact. Scientists at the center use radar and telescopes to study objects close to the Earth and to understand the dangers they pose to the planet.

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The European Space Agency’s near-Earth ject budget coordination center has also removed the planet from its threat list.

The CNEOS Center is operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

To observe the apophysis and remove it from the endangered species, astronomers used the Goldstone radio antenna from the Deep Space Network near Bursto, California. This dish is one of the three in the world that enables communication with spacecraft in deep space. Scientists also relied on collaboration with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

These images show the radar observations of the asteroid Oph Pofis on March 8, 9 and 10, 2021, as it forms the closest approach to Earth by 2029.

JPL scientist Marina Brozovich said in a statement, “Oph Pofis recently approached Earth, it was still about 10.6 million miles away.” “Nevertheless, we were able to obtain incredibly accurate information about its distance with an accuracy of about 150 meters (490 feet). The expedition did not help us to deny the risk of any impact, it set us up for a wonderful science opportunity.”

When images seem blurry, the resolution is fairly strong considering the asteroid is about 17 million miles away or 44 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon at that time.

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“If we had binoculars as powerful as this radar, we would be able to sit in Los Angeles and read the dinner menu at a New York restaurant.”

The data obtained from this observation will help scientists to learn more about the shape and rotation rate of the planet. The current belief is that the apophysis is peanut-shaped.

Although Apophysis poses no threat in the next century, it will face the Earth’s gravitational field during its flyby on April 13, 2029, and pass within 20,000 miles of the Earth’s surface. It is 10 times closer to the Earth’s orbiting satellites and the moon.

The Apophis will be visible to the naked eye in the Eastern Hemisphere, without the need for a telescope or binoculars. And astronomers will have the opportunity to study asteroids near them.

“Apophys was a poster child for dangerous asteroids when I started working with asteroids after college.” “There is a definite sense of satisfaction to see why it is removed from the risk list, and we look forward to the science that we can uncover in the near future.”