An asteroid about the size of the Eiffel Tower peacefully passed by Earth earlier this month, but NASA scientists are warning that its next flyby in 2029 could result in a massive crash with satellites orbiting our planet.
On Friday, March 6, asteroid 99942 Apophis came within 10.9 million miles of Earth, reports Insider. While that is quite distant from our planet and the Near-Earth Orbit region, NASA researchers are now saying that on its next pass, it will be within 19,800 miles of our planet in 2029.
The short distance is a mere stone’s throw in galactic terms and far less than the distance separating us from the Moon, and as such the asteroid’s flyby could potentially result in an expensive collision with high-altitude communications satellites.
NASA has released an animated video showing what the flyby may look like when it comes close to our planet:
Upon discovering the asteroid in 2004, researchers were actually worried that it could strike our planet in 2029 – hence the name Apophis, which is the name of an Ancient Egyptian demon serpent chaos deity (and would actually be a quite befitting blackened death metal band).
However, scientists at NASA have since revised their assessment and are sure that it will pass without striking the surface of the Earth.
“The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” said radar scientist Marina Brozović from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 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.”
The flyby will also be so close that some will be able to see it pass from the ground, with the naked eye.
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