Asteroid 99942 Apophis makes return to Earth’s neighborhood
One of the most celebrated space rocks, the asteroid known as Apophis, will make a return to Earth’s vicinity this week.
This space rock is some 1,213 feet in length and was discovered in Arizona back on June 19, 2004, at the Kitt Peak National Observatory by astronomer Robert J. Tholen.
This in no ordinary asteroid – this is one of the asteroids that has a chance to strike the Earth in the distant future.
The asteroid still has a small chance of striking Earth later in this century, but even then the percentage is small a 1 in 150,000 chance on April 12, 2068.
Astronomers are very interested in the close passage of 2029.
On Friday, Apophis will pass the Earth by a safe distance of around 11,000,000 miles.
This will be our last good chance at observing the rock before the very close shave which will occur on April 13, 2029. At that time, Apophis will come within 19,000 miles of Earth.
This is well within the orbits of some of the geosynchronous satellites in Earth orbit.
Here is what asteroid Apophis looks like.
Here is a good analysis of future near Earth passes.
In order to get a better understanding of the orbit of Apophis, astronomers will be getting radar images of Apophis, from the large Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.
The name of the asteroid comes from Egyptian culture and is thought to be a god of chaos or war.
Here is what Apophis looked like to the Egyptians.
Here is a live tracker to help you locate the position of the asteroid.
You would need a very large telescope to see this object.
Just to be clear, there are now some 2,037 near-Earth asteroids on the books and none of those which have a tracked orbit, are going to strike the Earth any time soon.
That is the good news, but the real threat from space are the asteroids which come from a region behind the sun and are often only detected when very close or have just skimmed the Earth.
Here is a short video on what an Apophis impact might look like.
The 2029 passage is important as this close approach has the potential to alter the asteroids orbit and possibly change the odds of a collision in the future.
The other concern is that a phenomenon known as the Yarkovsky effect can alter the orbits of asteroids. This is done by the heating of the surface of the asteroid by sunlight and slowly changing its obit.
The close approaches of Apophis after this weekend will be on April 13, 2029; April 13, 2036; and as mentioned before, April 12, 2068.
All these dates are just before the tax deadline – don’t forget!
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
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