A 1,100-foot-wide asteroid is on course to pass by Earth in a decade

A massive asteroid will be visible to the naked eye when it passes close to Earth within the same distance as spacecraft that orbit the planet, according to NASA.

The 1,100-foot-wide rock named 99942 Apophis will shoot across the sky like a “moving star-like point of light”, getting brighter and faster on Friday April 13 2029.

At 19,000 miles above the earth’s surface, it will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the Southern Hemisphere from the east coast to the west coast of Australia.

The asteroid will then pass across the Indian ocean, moving west above Africa, then travelling above the Atlantic Ocean in just an hour, reaching the US by the evening.

It is rare for an asteroid of this size to pass Earth so closely, according to NASA, which says that smaller asteroids from 10-20 metres have been spotted at similar distances but those the size of Apophis are much fewer.

NASA scientists discussed the observation and science opportunities for the celestial event at the 2019 Planetary Defence Conference in Maryland on Tuesday.

According to researchers, Apophis will travel more than the width of the full moon within a minute and will shine as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper constellation.

“The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“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.”

When a team of astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory discovered Apophis in 2004, initial orbital calculations revealed that the asteroid had a 2.7% chance of impacting Earth in 2029.

However, additional observations completely ruled out that possibility, showing that Apophis still has a small chance of impacting Earth – less than 1 in 100,000 – many decades from now.

Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JLP’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies said: “We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis’ orbit, but our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches.”

“Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids,” said Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS.

“By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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