If you look up to the skies on April 13, 2029, you’ll see the God of Chaos streaking past the Earth.
NASA are already preparing for the event because, as you’ll have probably guessed by its name, the God of Chaos is a hefty beast. The asteroid measures 340 metres in length, taller than the Eiffel Tower, and will be travelling so quickly it’ll sail past the moon in a minute.
The massive space rock will fly past the Earth at a distance of 19,000 miles, which may sound far away, but it’ll still appear brighter in the sky than most stars, and will appear to speed up as it travels through our skies.
It’ll also be close enough for scientists to get an unprecedented look at the rock, allowing them to observe the asteroid in new ways. Though smaller asteroids have flown closer to Earth, asteroids of this size are extremely rare.
The space agency have named the rock Apophis, after the Egyptian god of chaos.
Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said, via the Independent:
The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science.
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 asteroid will be visible to the naked eye as it arrives in the night sky over the Southern Hemisphere. It will cross from the east coast to the west coast of Australia, before crossing the Indian Ocean and over the US.
The God of Chaos’ closest approach to Earth will be over the Atlantic Ocean in just under a decade’s time, during the evening of April 13 in the US. It will be visible for around an hour, before continuing its journey through space.
Apophis was first spotted in 2004, by astronomers at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. It was seen again some time later by researchers in Australia, who deemed it had a 2.7 per cent chance of colliding with Earth. However, further research has lowered that to 1 in 100,000.
Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JPL’s Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), said:
We already know that the close encounter with Earth will change Apophis’ orbit, but our models also show the close approach could change the way this asteroid spins, and it is possible that there will be some surface changes, like small avalanches.
While Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS, added:
Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense.
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