Asteroid 99942 Apophis will pass within 19,000 miles of the Earth’s surface on April 13, 2029, which is closer than some satellites currently orbiting our planet. Furthermore, the huge 1,500 feet long and 550 feet wide asteroid will appear as bright as the stars in Ursa Minor in the northern skies.
A Rare Occurrence
Asteroid Apophis is named after the ancient Egyptian deity of chaos, darkness and destruction. As such, he was also the arch enemy of the sun god Ra. If this is all beginning to sound ominous, worry not. On average, an asteroid the size of Apophis is only be expected to collide with the Earth every 80,000 years or so. Furthermore, there is only a slight 2.7% possibility that it would strike the Earth in April of 2029, according to NASA.
Possible Impact of Asteroid Apophis Collision
The asteroid is bigger than an aircraft carrier, which is hardly a world-destroying size. Nevertheless, it could certainly do some major damage if it did impact the Earth, and could obliterate a city.
To put its potential destructive force into perspective, the 1908 Tunguska event is believed to have involved a comet or dense asteroid that was between 200 and 620 feet (60-190 meters). That object is significantly smaller than 99942 Apophis. Nonetheless, it still managed to knock down 80 million trees over a 2,150 km2 (830 sq mile) area.
Opportunity For Observation
Instead of 99942 Apophis wreaking havoc on Earth, however, scientists are welcoming this near-Earth asteroid’s appearance as an invaluable opportunity to observe it using optical and radar telescopes and to gain a better understanding of its orbit. This could also help prepare our planet for a time when the asteroid may pass closer to Earth many decades from now. Commenting upon the asteroid’s approach, Paul Chodas, director of JPL’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies, explains:
“Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids. By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense.”