One of the largest asteroids that NASA is tracking has an orbit that brings it closer to Earth is officially called asteroid 99942. The asteroid is also known as Apophis, the Egyptian god of chaos and darkness. NASA recently announced that it has determined that the asteroid does not pose a threat to reach Earth for at least the next 100 years.
Apophis was discovered in 2004, and a recent study delivered revised calculations that can accurately predict the asteroid’s orbit. Apophis is 1110 feet wide and previous estimates have shown that it can get extremely close to Earth in 2029 and 2036, with a small chance of reaching Earth in 2068. Its last pass near our planet was on March 5, but it was 10 million miles away.
Despite being so far from the planet, NASA was able to use radar observations to better understand how Apophis was orbiting the sun. The new calculations ruled out any risk of impact in 2068. Scientists say that, with recent observations, uncertainty about the asteroid’s orbit has decreased from hundreds of kilometers to a handful of kilometers when projected for 2029.
This is considered to be a significant improvement in positional knowledge, giving much more information about the future movement of the asteroid. Astronomers were able to acquire accurate information about the distance from the asteroid with an accuracy of about 150 meters. The data collected will also help scientists learn more about the shape of the asteroid and its rate of rotation. Currently, astronomers believe that Apophis is shaped like a peanut.
When the asteroid flies across Earth in 2029, it will pass less than 20,000 miles from the surface, which is closer than the orbit of some satellites. It is also ten times closer to Earth than to the moon. The asteroid will be visible to people in the eastern hemisphere with the naked eye.