New observations of the approaching Earth asteroid Apophis helped to better calculate its trajectory and showed that in the foreseeable time its fall can not be expected.
After the discovery of the near-Earth asteroid (99942) Apophis, he became the object of universal interest as one of the most potentially dangerous celestial bodies. Preliminary calculations of its trajectory predicted that during future encounters with our planet in 2029, 2036 or 2068, the asteroid has a far from zero chance of falling on it. The impact of a body with a diameter of more than 300 meters can cause a global catastrophe.
Fortunately, soon closer observations of Apophis made it possible to more accurately calculate its movement and show that it will not fall to Earth either in 2029 or 2036. There was still a threat of 2068, but now, thanks to the new work of scientists from the Center for the Study of Near-Earth Objects (CNEOS), we can be calm for him. “Our calculations show that there is no risk in the next hundred years,” says Davide Farnocchia, one of the study's authors.
On March 5 of this year, Apophis made another - quite distant - approach, approaching about 17 million kilometers, almost 50 times farther than the Moon. During this time, scientists observed its movement, sending radar signals using the radio antenna at the Goldstone Observatory and receiving reflected waves using the Green Bank Telescope. This made it possible to obtain images with a resolution of less than 39 meters, it is better to examine the asteroid itself, its rotation, to estimate the speed and distance to it.
The pictures show the elongated shape of the celestial body, apparently consisting of two "stuck together" parts. In addition, refined models have dramatically reduced the uncertainty in the calculations of the future trajectory of Apophis. Its flight in 2029 is now predicted with an accuracy of several kilometers, and the data on the flight in 2068 allows us to confidently say that collisions can not be expected even then.
Recall that during a close approach in 2029, Apophis will pass at a distance of less than 32 thousand kilometers from the Earth's surface, being closer than even some satellites operating in geosynchronous orbit. At this time, he will be visible even with the naked eye. However, he poses no danger either then or in later rapprochements, which will take place in the next hundred years. Moreover, CNEOS removed Apophis from the list of potentially dangerous objects, the orbits of which could dangerously close to the Earth in the future.