A model of the Apophis asteroid. Image credits: Astronomical Institute of the Charles University: Josef Ďurech, Vojtěch Sidorin.
The asteroid Apophis will pass close to Earth in 2029. Here’s why this is a good thing
Earth’s gravity and Sun’s radiation can change its surface.
In a study conducted by astronomers from the Orbital Dynamics Group from the Universidade Estadual de São Paulo (UNESP), Brazil, and from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain, researchers suggest that Apophis’ 20209 fly-by offer a learning opportunity, enabling researchers to get an unprecedented view of what’s happening on the asteroid’s surface.
The distance between us and Apophis is currently about 38,000 kilometers, as tracked by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)’s Horizons — about 10 times closer than the Moon is to the Earth. The asteroid’s estimated size is about 340 meters wide, thanks to observations from the Arecibo Observatory data, but its size is not completely clear.
In the present study, the team simulated what they believe is the approximate size and shape of Apophis to understand what happens in it. It turns out, Apophis is in trouble: the Earth and the Sun are a threat to small particles around the rock because of gravity and the pressure caused by the Sun’s radiation.
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