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A giant asteroid quietly missed Earth, predicted to return in eight years

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Mar 08, 2021 1:20 am

Did you sense it?

ICYMI: Asteroid 99942 Apophis, named after the Ancient Egyptian god of chaos, quietly whizzed by Earth earlier this week on Friday, March 6.

With a size of France’s Eiffel Tower, or three and a half football fields wide, Apophis flew by the planet at a safe distance of 10.4 million miles away - or 44 times that of the distance between Earth and its moon. 

It’s considered rare for an asteroid to get that near to Earth - but Apophis is actually no stranger to our planet.

The asteroid was first discovered in 2004, with NASA predicting the possibility that the asteroid would impact Earth in 2029. Upon years of data and observation, however, NASA scientists have since changed their forecast on the impact, with Apophis having relatively safe visits in April 2029, 2036, and 2068. 

Though there's no chance of impact in the near future, NASA has still yielded a 1 in 380,000 chance that Apophis could hit Earth in 2068. Meanwhile, the upcoming 2029 flyby will be close enough that the asteroid could collide with high-flying satellites orbiting around Earth.

“The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,” said NASA radar scientists Marina Brozović on Apophis’ visit eight years from now.

 “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.”