May 14, 2020

An Asteroid Will Approach Earth 10 Times Closer Than The Moon And Even Closer Than The Man-Made Satellites

The solar system has a sense of humor: Almost 9 years from now, on Friday, April 13, 2029, a large asteroid will streak across the sky — but it's a cause for excitement, not fear, scientists say.

That asteroid, called Apophis, stretches about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across and will pass within 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometres) of Earth's surface. That might sound scary, but scientists are positive that it will not hit Earth. Instead, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance for scientists to truly understand asteroids near Earth.

The near Earth asteroid Apophis, shown in yellow, will pass by Earth in 2029 within the distance that some satellites (shown in blue) orbit Earth. The purple line represents the International Space Station's orbit. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

"The excitement is that an object this large comes this close about once per thousand years, so it's all about, What's the opportunity?" Richard Binzel, a planetary scientist at MIT, said during the International Academy of Aeronautics' Planetary Defense Conference.

The asteroid's proximity and size will also add to the encounter's brightness, so Apophis will capture eyeballs — about 2 billion people should be able to see it pass by with their naked eyes, he said.

Asteroid Apophis was discovered on June 19, 2004.  (Image credit: UH/IA)

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