The asteroid Apophis is the chosen target of a planetary defense exercise during its March 6 flyby.


Planetary defense experts rely on the popular asteroid Apophis to try their hand at calculations and capabilities to prevent deadly collisions of asteroids that pose a danger to life on Earth. Apophis is expected to pass close to Earth on March 5. Planetary defense experts and scientists will likely use the close flyby as an opportunity to refine maps of its precise trajectory and see how the asteroid’s orbit behaves relative to Earth’s. At over 300 meters in size, asteroid 99942 Apophis is roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower.

Scientists from around the world have been invited to observe Apophis, to help strengthen the planetary defense system. Vishnu Reddy, a planetary defense expert at the University of Arizona who coordinates the observation campaign, He said Space.com that the project will be a “coalition of the will”, after which the scientists “will continue this campaign, trying to observe this object.” The next campaign, listed in the IAWN website, states that the asteroid’s closest approach will be at 1.06 am UTC (6.46 am IST) on March 6, 2021. Although the 2021 flyby is not close enough to Earth, Apophis should make a closer pass in 2029, when it will be within ~ 40,000 km of Earth.

Apophis is a large near-Earth asteroid, expected to pass close to Earth in 2029, 2036, and again in 2068. Impacts in 2029 and 2036 had already been ruled out. As of February 2021, the chances of impact during the Apophis flyby in 2068 they are now 1 in 3.80,000 (99.9997% changes where Earth is missing). Image: NASA

the International Asteroid Warning Network It has organized similar observing campaigns twice in the past, with asteroids 2012 TC4 and 1999 KW4.

Apophis it was calculated as if it were on a possible collision course with the Earth several times in the past. A recent study claimed that there is a very small chance (1 in 1.50,000) that the asteroid will collide with Earth in the year 2068. Apophis is large enough to cause significant damage should there be such a collision, making it a suitable practice target for any actual damage caused by space rocks that may arise in the future.

Apophis ground flyby in 2029. Image: NASA

Apophis ground flyby in 2029. Image: NASA

Planetary defense isn’t desperate: If humans identify a dangerous asteroid long enough before impact, we could theoretically do something to deflect it, according to a Space.com report. Successful prevention of asteroid impact damage will depend on detecting the threat early, which requires practice.

Asteroids, as they make their way through the universe, can hurtled toward planet Earth at dangerous speeds. Above a certain size and threshold speed, these deadly asteroids can cause massive damage to the Earth’s ecosystem, not unlike the asteroid famous for having started a snowball effect that ended with more than 70 percent extinction. of life on Earth, including dinosaurs. This has kept many scientists concerned, as to the implications, but also the solutions to defend the planet against such incidents.

Although, in most cases, space rocks are too small to cause damage or fly without collision, scientists agree that any potentially dangerous large asteroids need to be monitored.

Read also: JF1, Apophis will skim the Earth in the 2020s; planetary defense courtesy of NASA, ESA is still going

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