What are 31,000 kilometers away? In terms of space, it's a touch. It is the distance that the dangerous asteroid Apophis, 340 meters long, passes by. The possibility of influencing us is minimal, almost zero. But they do not exist. You are nine years from your approach. The day that will be closer is April 13, 2019
The Planetary Defense Conference was held recently. Developed a roadmap to set the steps for this event. "The close passage of the asteroid 99942 Apophis in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science." Marina Brozovic says in a statement. She is a researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It works with radar observations from near-Earth objects (NEO). "We will observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we could see surface details a few meters in size."
An unusual asteroid
It is rare for an asteroid of this size to come close to Earth. The usual thing is to see small bodies of the order of 5 to 10 meters flying over the earth at a similar distance.
Apophis was discovered in June 2004 by a team of astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Astronomers could only recognize the asteroid for two days before they had technical problems. Another team rediscovered the asteroid later this year at the Siding Spring Survey in Australia. The observations caused a sensation. Initial orbital calculations showed that the asteroid 2029 had a 2.7% chance of hitting Earth. Fortunately, additional observations completely ruled out this possibility.
Optical and radar telescopes track Apophis in its orbit around the sun. So we know his future trajectory quite well. Current calculations show that Apophis still has little chance of influencing the earth. But in many decades it is less than 1 in 100,000. Future measurements are expected to rule out possible effects.
The asteroid will be like a moving star-shaped point of light. It is visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere. It will fly over the earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. Then it will cross the Indian Ocean and in the afternoon it will have crossed the equator that is still moving west across Africa. On the next approach, Apophis will be over the Atlantic. It will move so quickly that it will cross the Atlantic in just an hour.
Learning for the future
The main observations by Apophis will take place in 2029. Asteroid scientists from around the world will have the opportunity to study all the details.
“The close encounter with Earth will change Apophis's orbit. Our models also show that a narrow focus can change the way this asteroid rotates. There may be some surface changes, like small avalanches, "says Davide Farnocchia. He is an astronomer at the Center for Earth Object Studies.
"The dangerous asteroid Apophis is a representative of approximately 2,000 similar asteroids," said Paul Chodas, director of the center. "Observing the asteroid while it flies by in 2029 gives us important scientific knowledge. It could eventually be used for planetary defense."
We hope it won't be soon. And the giant robots are ready for this time. You will surely be Japanese.