A new study conducted by the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) in partnership with the Universidade Julio de Mesquita Filho Paulista (UNESP) analyzed the physical properties of the asteroid Apophis, a celestial body with a diameter of 370 meters and passing relatively close. Down to Earth on December 13, 2029.
In the research, the scientists analyzed the potential effects of this approach, such as potential effects on its trajectory and angle of inclination, among others.
“Collision is not the only possibility in events of such close proximity.”Gabriel Borderris Mota, a researcher in the Department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering at UC3M, tells the news agency of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“The gravitational interaction between a planet and an object like Apophis can change the shape of the object, break the object into pieces, break up potential loose rock on the asteroid’s surface, or even remove other objects orbiting the asteroid (such as rocks, satellites, etc.), or rings. )”, says Gabriel Borderris Motta.
To conduct the research, the scientists ran a set of numerical simulations to try to predict how the particles orbiting the asteroid would interact with different situations and how these possibilities might affect the behavior of the celestial body.
“Since it will pass very close to the Earth, this object will suffer the effects of the gravitational pull of our planet, which is too great for it. That is why we conducted studies, for example, its surface and orbit, if the material could be pulled from the Earth. And our study shows that, yes, it is possible‘, he said to g 1 Othon Winter, study co-author and astronomer and professor at UNESP in Guaratinguetá.
NASA animation showing orbital path of asteroid 99942 Apophis
Winter explains that scientists are still not sure how dense this object is and that this was one of the topics the research explored.
This is important because when an asteroid is less dense, its gravity is weaker, and so it is easier for particles to fall off its surface. When its density is higher, the effect is reversed: it is able to hold more particles.
From these simulations, it was concluded that the angle of inclination of the asteroid was greater at lower densities than at higher densities. Moreover, the lower the particle density and the higher the solar radiation pressure, the fewer particles that remained intact.
“Radiative pressure is a phenomenon that can remove small particles more easily,” Winter says. “Very small particles are removed, but larger particles survive.”
i.e. in a scenario where Apophis density is low, Approximately 90% of the loose rock will be removed from its surface during approach to the Earth.
Moreover, the results showed that the approach of Apophis can slightly affect the tides of the body and cause some landslides on the surface of the asteroid.
What is the consequence of this on earth?
The closest point in the Apophis trajectory will be 38,000 km from Earth. Although, regarding the potential effects of separating these substances, Winter explains Preliminary studies indicate that these particles will not hit our planet directly.
“Although this asteroid passes very close to Earth, it passes at a very high speed. So the particles pulled by its gravity will continue to follow its path. It will be like its tail. So we are still studying the possibility that the Earth crosses this region,” the astronomer said.
Despite this possibility, Winter points out that this will do no harm to our planet, Bearing in mind that these stones will be less than one meter long and will soon decompose in the Earth’s atmosphere.
When the asteroid was discovered in 2004, There was a 2% chance of affecting EarthHowever, as explained by Thiago Signorini Gonçalves, an astronomer at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro who was not involved in the study, radar observations have already ruled out this hypothesis.
“This effect would be very dangerous, and it would not be enough to exterminate humans, but it would certainly be a great catastrophe. Over time, scientists were able to better analyze the orbit of this object, and today we know that it will not collide with the Earth anymore,” he said.
Today, according to the analysis of NASA astronomers, there is no danger that Apophis will hit Earth for at least a century.
“This is a low data problem. It causes quite a stir. You only see a small part of its motion across the sky. When we extrapolate this forward, the error is very large. Over time, more data was acquired, and the information over the course of the orbit was getting better and then we saw that The chance of collision is reduced a lot,” says Winter.
Signorini adds that It is very rare for an asteroid to pass as close to Earth as Apophis and that would be very interesting from a scientific point of viewwhere many detailed observations can be made.
“Asteroids are interesting things to study because they are leftovers from the formation of our solar system,” he says. “This is it [o 99942 Apophis] It will be very bright and visible to the naked eye in some places. With the help of an endoscope, anyone will be able to see it. It will be a bright spot in the sky, a relatively bright star.”
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