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Scientists now planning an asteroid flyby a decade ago



  Scientists Now Planning a Decadence of an Asteroid Decade
This animation shows the distance between the Apophis asteroid and the Earth at the time of the closest approach of the asteroid. The blue dots are the many artificial satellites orbiting our planet, and the pink dots represent the International Space Station. Picture credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech

On April 1

3, 2029, a patch of light spreads across the sky and becomes brighter and faster. At one point it will cover more than the full moon in one minute and it will be as bright as the stars in the Little Carriage. However, it is not a satellite or airplane – it will be a 340 meter wide, near-Earth asteroid called the 99942 Apophis, which is about 31,000 kilometers above Earth harmlessly crossing the surface. That's at the distance some of our spacecraft orbit the Earth.

The international asteroid research community could not be more excited.

This week, scientists will meet at the Planetary Defense Conference 2019 in College Park, Maryland, to discuss observational plans and scientific opportunities for the heavenly event, which is still a decade away. At a meeting on April 30, scientists will discuss everything from observation of the event to hypothetical missions that we could send to the asteroid.

"Approaching Apophis in 2029 will be an unbelievable opportunity for science," said Marina Brozovi, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on near-Earth (NEO) radar observations. "We will observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes, and radar observations may allow us to see surface details that are only a few meters tall."

It rarely happens that an asteroid of this size passes by Earth so close. Although scientists have discovered small asteroids on the order of five to ten meters that fly at a similar distance from Earth, asteroids the size of Apophis are far less numerous and therefore less likely to pass the Earth.

The Asteroid, which looks like a moving star-shaped spot of light, will first be visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere and fly over the earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. On the east coast of the United States it will be mornings when Apophis is over Australia. It will then cross the Indian Ocean, and in the afternoon in the eastern United States, it will cross the Equator, which is still westward over Africa. In the immediate vicinity, just before 18 clock. EDT, Apophis will be over the Atlantic – and it will move so fast that it crosses the Atlantic in just one hour. At 19 o'clock EDT, the asteroid will have crossed the United States.

A team of astronomers from the Kitt Peak National Observatory discovered Apophis in June 2004. Astronomers were able to detect the asteroid for only two days before technical and weather-related problems were prevented. Fortunately, another team spotted the asteroid later this year at the Siding Spring Survey in Australia. The observations caused quite a stir – first orbits showed the asteroid had a 2.7% chance of affecting Earth in 2029. Fortunately, additional observations completely excluded this possibility.

Since its discovery, optical and radar telescopes have tracked Apophis as it travels on its orbit around the sun, so we know the future trajectory well. Current calculations show that Apophis still has little chance of hitting Earth in many decades, less than 1 in 100,000, but future measurements of its position are likely to rule out potential effects.

Apophis' Most Important Observations Will Do This It will occur in 2029, when asteroid researchers around the world will have an opportunity to closely examine the size, shape, composition and possibly even the interior of the Apophis.

At the conference, scientists will ask questions like "How will Earth's gravity affect the asteroid as it passes by?" "Can we use Apophis' flyby to get inside an asteroid?" And "Should we send a spacecraft mission to Apophis? "

"We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change the orbit of Apophis, but our models also show that the closer approach may change the way the asteroid rotates. There may be some surface changes like small avalanches, "said Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at the JPL Near-Earth Objects Center (CNEOS), who, together with Brozovi, is leading the April 30 meeting on Apophis.

"Apophis is a representative of some 2,000 currently known potentially dangerous asteroids (PHAs)," said Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS. "By watching Apophis fly by in 2029, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could someday be used to defend the planets."


Asteroid Apophis has the chance, according to expert estimates, to hit Earth


Provided by
Jet Propulsion Laboratory




Quote :
Scientists now planning a decade before the asteroid flyby (2019, April 29)
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