The Apophis Asteroid Will Safely Pass Earth Tonight, but You'll Need a Telescope to See It
Shooting stars and eclipses always catch our attention from right here on Earth, but there are plenty of equally as important things happening out in the galaxy that we may not know about. According to the Daily Mail, a 1,115-foot asteroid will be passing by our planet tonight. While it'll safely move past Earth today, scientists say this same asteroid (dubbed "Apophis" after the Egyptian "God of Chaos") could actually hit our planet in 2068. As for this evening, it will only come within about 10 million miles of our atmosphere (which is about 44 times further away than our planet's distance from the Moon).
While this intergalactic event will be too far in outer space to see by just glancing up from your backyard, the researchers note that you can spot the asteroid at about 8 p.m. EST—which will likely look like the size of a peanut from here—with a telescope as it passes by Earth during its orbit of the Sun. Apophis takes 324 laps around the Sun in comparison to Earth's 365 days. And thanks to the asteroid passing by Earth tonight, scientists can figure out more about this potentially dangerous rock down the road, as a collision would compare to an explosion of 880 million tons of trinitrotoluene. "The goal is to basically wrangle all the scientists from around the world, kind of the coalition of the willing," Vishnu Reddy, a planetary defense expert, told Space. "Then we go on this months-long campaign, trying to observe this object."
Apophis will come closer to Earth on April 13, 2029 (within 22,990 miles), and give a greater opportunity for scientists to study the asteroid. "We'll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes," said Marina Brozović of NASA JPL. "With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few metres in size."
"Like all asteroids, Apophis is a remnant from the early formation of our solar system about four-and-a-half billion years ago," a NASA statement read. "It originated in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Over millions of years, its orbit was changed primarily by the gravitational influence of large planets like Jupiter so that it now orbits the Sun closer to Earth."