According to reports from NASA, a huge asteroid will be visible to the human eyes when it passes the Earth at a very close distance, equal to the heights at which spacecraft orbit the Earth.
The asteroid is named 99942 Apophis, measuring 1100 ft wide. It will be passing the sky like a bright star-like point of light and will gain in brightness and velocity on Friday, 13 April 2029.
At a distance of 19000 miles from the surface of Earth, it will be visible to the human eyesight. The residents of Southern Hemisphere will be able to observe it first, namely the eastern and western coasts of Australia.
After that, it will be moving across the Indian Ocean and will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean in an hour’s duration, finally passing by the United States in the evening.
It is very rare for an asteroid of this dimension to cross Earth so closely. According to NASA, there have been smaller asteroids of 10-20 metres which have passed the Earth at very similar distances but those of the size of Apophis have been rare.
The observation and scientific opportunities related to this event were discussed by scientists at NASA at the Planetary Defence Conference 2019 which was held in Maryland.
Scientists have calculated that the asteroid will cover a distance which is more than the width of the full moon in the duration of only one minute and its brightness will be comparable to that of the stars in the Little Dipper constellation.
Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory situated in Pasadena, California commented that the close approach of the asteroid Apophis in 2029 will be a very exciting opportunity for the scientific world. She also said that the observations will be made with both optical and radar telescopes.
With the help of radar observations, it might be possible to view the details of the surface which are only of a few metres in size.
The asteroid Apophis was discovered on 19th of June, 2004 by a group of researchers that included Roy A. Tucker, David J. Tholen, and Fabrizio Bernardi. It was detected at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The name Apophis is the Greek name of Apep, the enemy of Sun God in Egyptian Mythology.
When initially found, researchers detected the chance of the asteroid hitting Earth at a probability of 2.7% in 2029. However, the latest calculations show that the asteroid may hit our planet at a chance of 1 in 100000, several decades later.