Jim Bridenstine, the current administrator of NASA, confirmed in a recent tweet that the potentially hazardous asteroid known as Apophis will dangerously approach Earth nine years from now. The NASA official noted that the asteroid will approach Earth at such a close distance that it will pass below satellites currently orbiting the planet.
Apophis, also known as 2004 MN4, is a massive asteroid that spans about 1,100 to 1,210 feet wide. Previous observations on the asteroid revealed that it would dangerously approach Earth in the future. Although the asteroid is expected to fly close to Earth, scientists noted that it most likely won't collide with the planet.
Apophis' Near-Earth Flyby
Projections regarding the current trajectory of Apophis have revealed that it will make its near-Earth approach on April 13, 2029. According to NASA, the asteroid will appear as a speck of light in the sky as it travels across Earth's neighborhood.
The agency estimated that the asteroid would approach the planet from a distance of 19,000 miles away. In a tweet, Bridenstine noted that the asteroid would pass near certain satellites orbiting Earth. It is not yet clear if the asteroid has a chance of hitting a satellite during its upcoming approach.
Observing Asteroid Apophis
As noted by Bridenstine, NASA will use the asteroid's near-Earth flyby as an opportunity to learn more about Apophis. Although the asteroid's visit is still less than a decade away, the agency's scientists are already preparing to observe Apophis using NASA's various instruments.
"The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science," radar scientist Marina Brozović of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement. "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 meters in size."
Learning About Potentially Hazardous Asteroid
Paul Chodas, the director of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, noted that Apophis represents the thousands of hazardous asteroids that pose a threat to Earth. Closely studying and observing it during its upcoming approach will provide valuable information regarding the other asteroids that are in danger of hitting the planet.
"Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids," Chodas stated. "By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense."