NASA races against clock to intercept ‘God of Chaos’ asteroid threatening Earth’s orbit | Science | News

A spaceship has been launched to investigate the so-called “God of Chaos” asteroid that could reach the Earth’s orbit.

OSIRIS-APEX has been sent to study the Apophis asteroid which is due to fly by Earth in 2029.

While not expected to crash into our planet, its passing will be a once-in-7,500-year event, according to NASA.

In a statement, NASA said: “The intrigue of Apophis is its exceptionally close approach of our planet on April 13, 2029.

“Although Apophis will not hit Earth during this encounter or in the foreseeable future, the pass in 2029 will bring the asteroid within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of the surface – closer than some satellites, and close enough that it could be visible to the naked eye in the Eastern Hemisphere.

“Scientists estimate that asteroids of Apophis’ size, about 367 yards across (about 340 meters), come this close to Earth only once every 7,500 years.”

OSIRIS-APEX, formerly known as OSIRIS-REx, , where it was collecting samples and creating a mosaic image of the asteroid.

Its trip to Bennu took a total of seven years, travelling some six billion miles to and from Earth.

OSIRIS-APEX’s new mission is similar to that of its one to Bennu, with NASA explaining it will use its “instrument suite of imagers, spectrometers, and a laser altimeter to closely map the surface and analyze its chemical makeup.”

Amy Simon, the mission’s project scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “OSIRIS-APEX will study Apophis immediately after such a pass, allowing us to see how its surface changes by interacting with Earth’s gravity.”

“The close approach is a great natural experiment,” said Dani Mendoza DellaGiustina, principal investigator for OSIRIS-APEX at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

“We know that tidal forces and the accumulation of rubble pile material are foundational processes that could play a role in planet formation.

“They could inform how we got from debris in the early solar system to full-blown planets.”

Apophis last made headlines around the world in 2004 when initial observations predicted it could hit earth in 2029.

While the prediction was pinned at 2.7 percent at the time, it was put at Level 4 on the Torino impact hazard scale, which categorises the impact hazards of near-earth objects.

It was the highest ever score measured using the scale, however it was downgraded after four days in December 2004.

Its name, Apophis, is derived from the Greek for Apep, an enemy of ancient Egyptian sun-God Ra, who would attempt to swallow Ra each night.


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