Apophis, an asteroid the size of three professional soccer fields, will pass by Earth during the year 2029. The approach does not represent a risk to life on the planet, but astronomers will jump at the chance to visit this enormous rock. To reveal the secrets of this object, they will intercept it using a probe known for its effectiveness: the OSIRIS.
Asteroid 99942 is also known as Apophis. It was discovered in 2004 and was quickly identified as one of the most dangerous asteroids in the solar system. She was nicknamed that way in reference to the Egyptian deity associated with chaos and destruction. Since scientists became aware of its existence, it has been one of the most studied objects by space observatories. It is thanks to these investigations that the possibility of an impact in the years 2029, 2036 and 2068, when Earth and Apophis coincide in space, was soon ruled out.
The Osiris probe, as part of the mission OSIRIS-REx, was in charge of heading towards the asteroid Bennu to collect 250 grams of material from its surface. Astronomers launched it on September 8, 2016, and it arrived at its destination on October 20, 2020. The collected fragments had not been modified in millions of years, making them a time capsule to explore the early days of the system. solar.
Psyche, “the 10 trillion dollar asteroid” is not what we think
For NASA, Psyche is probably the result of a planetary differentiation process, where heavier materials sink toward the center and form a dense, incandescent core.
A new journey for OSIRIS
In September 2023 the small ship returned to Earth, but instead of landing it fired a special capsule containing the remains of Bennu. Scientists are currently studying the material and it is presumed to contain prebiotic components. Once the valuable cargo has been delivered, OSIRIS began its next mission. The probe will carry out the same procedure with Apophis.
OSIRIS-Aphopis Explorer, or simply OSIRIS-APEX, is the mission that will take the probe to the giant asteroid in 2029. Before landing on its surface, it will enter orbit around Apophis to capture high-resolution images of all its faces and monitor its rotation. It will also study the dust and small rocks surrounding the asteroid.
“Like all asteroids, Apophis is a remnant of the early formation of our solar system, approximately 4.6 billion years ago. It originated in the main asteroid belt, located between Mars and Jupiter. Over millions of years, its Its orbit has changed primarily due to the gravitational influence of large planets such as Jupiter, which has caused it to now orbit closer to Earth around the Sun. As a result, Apophis is classified as a near-Earth asteroid, as opposed to an asteroid. of the main belt,” explains NASA.
According to the latest information update from the US Space Agency, most of the space objects near the Earth have been located and none of them represent a risk. However, at least 50 asteroids with a diameter greater than one kilometer have not yet been detected by any instrument.