Scientists Are Planning For The 2029 Apophis Asteroid Flyby

Back in 2013, the Herschel Space Observatory found an asteroid called Apophis was larger than believed. It caused a bit of panic when early estimates showed a slight chance that the asteroid might hit the Earth in 2029. That was later changed when refined information suggesting that it would pass very close to Earth.

The asteroid was predicted to make an approach as close as 22,000 miles from Earth. While that is a lot of miles, it will come closer to the Earth than some satellites that orbit. Scientists are already planning for the flyby though it is still a decade away.

99942 Apophis will make its closest approach on April 13, 2029. It will look like a speck of light streaming across the sky getting brighter and faster. NASA says that at one point it will travel more than the width of the full moon within a minute and get as bright as the stars in the little dipper.

Refined estimates for Apophis put the asteroid at 340-meters wide and estimates are that it will pass about 19,000 miles from Earth. Scientists are discussing observation plans and science opportunities posed by the flyby. The asteroid will first become visible to the naked eye looking like a moving star-like point of light in the night sky over the southern hemisphere.

It will fly above the Earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. When Apophis is above Australia, it will be mid-morning in the US. At its closest approach at 6 pm EDT the asteroid will be over the Atlantic ocean and traveling so fast that it will cross the ocean in an hour. By 7 pm EDT, the asteroid will have crossed the US. The team says that it knows the interaction with Earth gravity will change the asteroid's path.