Friday, May 31, 2019

Asteroid Apophis (God of Chaos) is Headed for Earth

From: Carl K.
Sent: May 31, 2019
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: Fw: Asteroid Apophis (God of Chaos) is Headed for Earth


Come April 13, 2029, 99942 Apophis- an asteroid measuring 1,100 feet wide- is projected to speed past earth at approximately 19,000 miles, possibly at closer proximity to the surface than orbiting space crafts.

Despite it being a decade from now, this predicted close call in the future has generated significant excitement among asteroid research experts. In fact, it was the main agenda of a session on Tuesday at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference happening in College Park, Maryland. Scientists will get to talk about everything including possible ways of diverting the rock and hypothetical expeditions to explore the asteroid.

Marina Brozovic, a NASA radar scientist who’s chairing the conference said that the asteroid's expected close approach promises to be a major opportunity for science. She said that they’d be able to view surface details just a couple of meters in size with the aid of radar and optical telescopes.

The reason why Apophis has so many scientists in euphoria is that rarely do asteroids of that size come so close to the earth. Apart from possible missions, other topics expected to be addressed include strategies to learn something about the rock’s interior, as well as the likely impacts of the earth’s gravity on the asteroid.

Astronomer, David Farnocchia, from JPL’s CNEOS acknowledged they were aware that the close encounter will likely alter the asteroid’s orbit, although their models project that the close approach might end up changing the way Apophis spins. There are also possibilities for surface changes, including minor avalanches.

When the D-day comes, the asteroid will be perceived by the naked eye as a moving star gliding in the sky above the Southern Hemisphere. The journey will start in Australia and over the Atlantic in just an hour, after which it will be seen in the West Coast of the U.S. early in the evening. During this passage, scientists will be a position to make crucial observations as far as the size, composition, shape, and interior of the object is concerned.

The discovery of Apophis happened in June 2004 where a team of astronomers working at the Kitt Peak National Observatory was able to track the asteroid for two days. However technical issues and weather problems interfered with the observations. An Australian group was later able to spot the rock again, using their data to estimate that there was a 2.7% chance of it colliding with our planet in 2029. Luckily, the prediction has been discredited. It is now believed that there is very little chance the rock will hit the earth.
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During an interview with Newsweek, Farnocchia revealed that they possess 15 years of radar and optical tracking data regarding Apophis, which gives them a precise estimate of the asteroid’s orbit through the future encounter with earth. He said that the orbit will be highly uncertain after the expected encounter, but this will be reduced by tracking data put together during the coming decade. The odds of Apophis colliding with earth after 2060 are extremely low; less than 1:100,000.

This is good news, considering that a rock of that magnitude striking the earth could result in devastation across the continent, although it won’t be the end of the world, as stated by Farnocchia.

The director of CNEOS, Paul Chodas, also said that Apophis is just one of the 2,000 currently identified potential dangers. The observation of Apophis’ expected flyby will provide critical scientific knowledge to be utilized for planetary defense in the future.

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