Will an asteroid collide with Earth in 2029? Animation shows result

As it does on average every eight years, asteroid 99942 Apophis will pass by Earth in April 2029, and, due to the (unfounded) risk of collision with our planet, it always causes a lot of commotion on social media. This time, it was due to an animation recently shared on Facebook by the Cosmoknowledge page.

The animation is a diagram of the next passage of the so-called Doomsday Asteroid, which will reach its maximum point on April 13, 2029, when it will be, according to NASA, 32 thousand kilometers from the Earth's surface. Closer than some geostationary satellites, the object can be seen with the naked eye, but only in the Eastern Hemisphere.

In fact, says NASA, there is not the slightest risk that the 340 meter asteroid will hit our planet, not in five years, and not in the next approach in 2036. However, as the shared video shows an apparent shock trajectory, ending up triggering what is known as a “flea behind the ear”.

Recalibrating NASA's asteroid calculations

When it is said that the asteroid will pass close to Earth, this is in cosmic terms, not in everyday terrestrial distances. Although there was an estimate that a real collision could occur in 2068NASA astronomers recalibrated their calculations during the last Apophis flyby in 2021, and radar observations showed no risk of impact “for at least the next 100 years.”

If there is, at least for now, no risk of Apophis colliding with Earth, this does not mean that there is not great scientific interest. Therefore, NASA's Small Body Assessment Group (SBAG) recommended that the agency send a spacecraft to visit the asteroid before it approaches our planet in 2029.

NASA will send a probe to Apophis

At the meeting, held in July 2023, the minutes of which were only recently published on the Space Policy Online website, SBAG “encourages NASA to pursue a mission opportunity, achievable within available resources, to explore Apophis prior to its close approach the land”.

Therefore, the OSIRIS-REx probe, the one that collected material from the asteroid Bennu in 2020, and delivered the samples to Earth in September last year, is expected to embark on an extended mission on Apophis. Changing its name to OSIRIS-APEX (initials for Apophis Explorer), the idea is for the spacecraft to orbit the asteroid for 18 months.

SBAG says the data obtained “will provide a thorough investigation of this remarkable opportunity to quantify and understand real-time the consequences of planetary tides on the evolution of asteroids and collect important information about the interior structure of Apophis”.

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