Scientists analyzed the characteristics of the asteroid Apophis, which will approach Earth in 2029

(ORDO NEWS) — The study, which involves the University of Madrid Carlos III (UC3M) and the State University Paulista Julio de Mesquita (UNESP) of Brazil, analyzes the surface and dynamics of the asteroid Apophis, which will pass close to Earth in 2029.

The asteroid Apophis was discovered in 2004 and has been monitored ever since due to its classification as a Potentially Hazardous Astronomical Object (POHA), as it has been calculated that it has a 2% chance of colliding with Earth.

Such a possibility has already been ruled out, and, according to the latest measurements, Apophis will reach the closest trajectory to Earth (38,000 kilometers) on April 13, 2029.

The study analyzes the physical characteristics of this celestial body and the possible consequences of its approach to the Earth. Gabriel Borderes-Motta, a researcher at UC3M’s Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering Department, explains that “collision is not the only possibility in events like this.

The gravitational interaction between the planet and Apophis can change shape, break apart, lose possible loose rocks on the surface, or even lose other bodies orbiting the asteroid (such as rocks, satellites, or rings). Our study focuses on the last two possibilities: what happens to possible rocks on the surface and the asteroid’s orbit.”

How to experiment with an asteroid

Research in the space sector presents a problem in that in most cases it is not possible to directly experiment with space materials. For this reason, numerous studies are approached from the fields of mathematics and physics, taking into account as many variables as possible.

The research team analyzed both the physical aspects of the asteroid, including its shape and gravitational field characteristics, as well as factors that could affect its trajectory and angle, such as radiation pressure or the perturbation caused by its proximity to Earth.

To conduct this part of the study, the team ran a series of numerical simulations two simulation environments with three experimental cases each using a disk of 15,000 differently sized particles in the vicinity of Apophis as a sample.

The goal was to try to predict how the particles orbiting the asteroid would react to different situations and how those assumptions might affect Apophis’ behavior.

The first set of simulations was developed considering only the gravitational perturbations of Apophis over 24-hour periods over a period of 30 years. The second set of simulations included a perturbation caused by solar radiation pressure.

In both sets, three cases were proposed in which the asteroid had different densities. “We evaluated a 340-meter polyhedron with uniform density in three different cases. In each case, the starting point was a different particle density, from the highest to the lowest,” says Gabriel Borderes-Motta.

It was concluded from this simulation that the asteroid’s tilt angle was greater at low density (4°) than at high density (2°); moreover, the lower the particle density and the higher the solar radiation pressure, the fewer particles remain intact.

In other words, in a scenario where Apophis has a low density, approximately 90% of loose rocks will be lost from its surface during its approach to the Earth. In addition, the results showed that the approach of Apophis could slightly affect the tides and cause landslides on the asteroid’s surface.

The team hopes that the approach of the asteroid to Earth in 2029 will provide an opportunity to improve the 3D model used to run space simulations, as well as allow them to more accurately investigate and predict the impact on the surface of Apophis.

All this would mean an increase in knowledge about asteroids, which would make it possible to be better prepared in the event of the passage of new celestial bodies near the Earth.


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