An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building will pass within 20,000 miles of Earth in about five and a half years. It is called Apophis and is considered a sign of the first solar system.
Composed primarily of silicate, along with iron and nickel, this celestial body can provide valuable information to planetary defense experts about the structure and other properties of asteroids.
In fact, it is hoped that during this rare close encounter, a NASA spacecraft will make a complete observation.
A threat to our planet?
Originally discovered in 2004, it is believed to pose a serious threat to impact Earth, with predictions even of a possible collision in 2029.
However, after a series of observations, any risk of impact has been ruled out for at least a century. However, something the size of Apophis could cause the destruction of entire cities and generate tsunamis.
The asteroid’s next approach to Earth will put it “less than a tenth of the distance from the Moon and within the orbits of some of Earth’s geosynchronous satellites.”
Which NASA spacecraft will observe this encounter?
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will remain in the vicinity of Apophis for 18 months to ensure no impact on Earth.
During this time, it will orbit around, maneuver close to and even land on it, using rocket boosters to move loose material to reveal details of what lies beneath the surface of the asteroid.
In addition, images and data obtained using measurements from telescopes from Earth will be combined to identify and quantify any changes Apophis experiences as it approaches our planet.