The Apophis asteroid travels remarkably close to Earth during its closest approach. The blue dots are the many man-made satellites that orbit our planet, and the pink represents the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
On 13 April 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky, getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane – it will be a 340-metre-wide (1,100-foot-wide) near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 31,000 kilometres (19,000 miles) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.
The international asteroid research community couldn’t be more excited.
This week at the 2019 Planetary Defence Conference in College Park, Maryland, scientists are gathering to discuss observation plans and science opportunities for the celestial event still a decade away. During a session on 30 April 2019, scientists will discuss everything from how to observe the event to hypothetical missions we could send out to the asteroid.
“The Apophis close approach in ...