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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO

Asteroid Apophis won’t impact Earth for at least 100 years

Earlier this month, the famous asteroid (99942) Apophis flew by Earth at a distance of 17 million kilometers, giving astronomers an opportunity to take a closer look on the asteroid’s orbit. Discovered in 2004, the 340 m large rock soon got widely known, after studies predicted a potential impact within this century. Now scientists used the 70-meter radio antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California and the 100-meter dish of the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virgina to measure the exact orbital path of the asteroid. During the observation, Goldstone transmitted radio signals to Apophis, where they were reflected and sent back to Earth. The Green Bank Telescope on the other hand, acted as the receiver station for the signals. Those radar observation, together with other earlier studies, now finally concluded, that the space rock would be no harm for the planet for at least the next 100 years.

Apophis seen on radar images taken between March 8 and March 10, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO
Apophis seen on radar images taken between March 8 and March 10, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO

About Apophis

(99942) Apophis, originally designated 2004 MN4, was discovered on June 19, 2004, by the three astronomers David J. Tholen, Fabrizio Bernardi and Roy A. Tucker, using the Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona. Soon analysis of the asteroid’s orbit showed, that the object would flyby Earth multiple times (2029, 2036 and 2068) at a small distance in the next few decades. This of course raised concerns about a potential impact of the small celestial body, especially after scientists predicted that the distance between the asteroid and Earth in 2029 would be just 32,000 km. Because the topic got depicted greatly exaggerated by the media, Apophis immidiately got famous as the “killer asteroid”, which would cause an apocalypse after its impact. Fortunately the new study now rules out this devastating scenario.


Sources

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-analysis-earth-is-safe-from-asteroid-apophis-for-100-plus-years

https://echo.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroids/brozovic.etal.apophis.2018.pdf

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