In approximately 5.5 years, an asteroid named Apophis, with a diameter of 340 meters, is expected to pass within 32,000 kilometers of Earth, marking the closest approach of an object this size in modern history. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, launched in 2016, is anticipated to be in position to closely study this event. The mission, led by the University of Arizona, aims to provide insights into planetary formation and contribute to the development of a defense system against potential asteroid collisions with Earth. Initially deemed a threat for a 2029 collision, refined observations have ruled out such a risk for at least another century. The Apophis flyby, occurring once every 7,500 years, will be the first predicted encounter of its kind. OSIRIS-REx, known for collecting a soil sample from a different asteroid, will observe Apophis’s Earth flyby, capturing images and data that, combined with ground-based telescope measurements, will reveal changes in the asteroid’s surface and motion. The spacecraft will remain near Apophis for 18 months, providing valuable information about asteroid composition for planetary defense efforts. While not posing an existential threat, an impact from an asteroid of Apophis’s size could still cause significant regional devastation.
Source – CGTN