Photo credit: Express
Asteroid 99942 Apophis was discovered in 2004 and identified as one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth. Results from a new radar observation campaign combined with precise orbit analysis have lead astronomers to conclude that there is no risk of this asteroid impacting our planet for at least a century. Spanning 1,100 feet across, Apophis made a distant flyby of Earth around March 5 and astronomers took the opportunity to use powerful radar observations to refine the estimate of its orbit around the Sun with extreme precision, enabling them to confidently rule out any impact risk in 2068 and long after. Read more for a video and additional information.
Astronomers are currently working to develop a better understanding of Apophis’ rotation rate and the axis it spins around, since the data will enable them to determine the orientation the asteroid will have with Earth as it encounters our planet’s gravitational field in 2029, which could change that spin state and even cause “asteroid quakes.” Why is this important? Well, on April 13, 2029, the asteroid will pass less than 20,000 miles from our Earth’s surface, which is closer than the distance of geosynchronous satellites.
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A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years. With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometers to just a handful of kilometers when projected to 2029. This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future motion, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).