Potentially hazardous asteroid (99942) Apophis: a new encounter
If there is an asteroid which does not need to have its name introduced to the public, it is the potentially hazardous one (99942) Apophis. This about 300-meters large rock was discovered in 2004 and turned out to be VERY interesting: it was clear that it was going to have two VERY close encounters with our planet on 2029 and 2036, when it will put a record for becoming visible with the naked eye, showing a fast apparent motion.
At the discovery time, Apophis showed some probabilities to hit us in 2029, but soon after some follow up, it was clear that NO collisions will occur that year. The 2036 encounter shows some VERY, VERY small collision chances depending on the details of the 2029 encounter. So, the latter approach will be very important (and spectacular!) to follow.
On 9 Jan. 2013, Apophis will reach a minimum distance from us of about 15 millions of km, a VERY SAFE value, with the object becoming visible to small scopes. It will be a very precious apparition for collecting more data for a better orbit determination and physical characterization (maybe enough to fix the 2036 event).
The Virtual Telescope team managed to get some astrometric positions of Apophis on Dec. 28, 2012, while it was VERY low above the southern horizon. The image above comes from that observing session and was taken with the 14″ robotic unit.
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