WASHINGTON – An asteroid named 99942 Apophis will fly towards the Earth in ten years, US space agency Nasa said.
The colossal asteroid, which is named after the Egyptian god of chaos and destruction, is expected to approach the Earth dangerously close on April 13, 2029, according to the latest data from Nasa, Xinhua reported.
But there is no need to worry as it will be about 31,000km away from the surface of the Earth.
Nasa said it is relatively rare for such a large object to pass so close to Earth and it will offer asteroid scientists around the world a great opportunity to conduct a close-up study of the Apophis’ shape, composition and possibly even its interior.
“The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a Nasa release.
“We’ll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few metres in size,” Brozovic said.
Stretching about 340m across, about 2 billion people should be able to see it pass by with their naked eyes as it flies above Earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia, then across the Indian Ocean and the equator, before moving west above Africa and finally over the Atlantic Ocean, Nasa said.
Apophis was discovered in 2004 by US astronomers. Since its discovery, optical and radar telescopes have tracked Apophis as it continues on its orbit around the Sun, so scientists know well its future trajectory.
Current calculations show that Apophis still has a small chance of impacting Earth, albeit many decades later, Nasa said.
“Current calculations show that Apophis still has a small chance of impacting Earth, less than 1 in 100,000 many decades from now,” Nasa said in the press release. “Future measurements of its position can be expected to rule out any possible impacts.