By Meghan Bartels
The solar system has a sense of humor: A decade from now, on Friday, April 13, 2029, a large asteroid will streak across the sky — but it’s a cause for excitement, not fear, scientists say.
That asteroid, called Apophis, stretches about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across and will pass within 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) of Earth’s surface. That might sound scary, but scientists are positive that it will not hit Earth. Instead, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for scientists to truly understand asteroids near Earth.
“The excitement is that an object this large comes this close about once per thousand years, so it’s all about, What’s the opportunity?” Richard Binzel, a planetary scientist at MIT, said yesterday (April 30) during the International Academy of Aeronautics’ Planetary Defense Conference, which is being held here this week. The asteroid’s proximity and size will also add to the encounter’s brightness, so Apophis will capture eyeballs — about 2 billion people should be able to see it pass by with their naked eyes, he said.
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