The clock is officially ticking.
Apophis—an asteroid as wide as three football fields—has a slim chance of slamming into Earth in 2068. Before then, however, the object is scheduled to zip past us in an encounter that scientists are already planning to exploit. Here are some intriguing ways in which we could explore Apophis during its next close approach in 2029.
In just nine years, potentially hazardous asteroid 99942 Apophis will come to within 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) of our planet. At one-tenth the distance between Earth and the Moon, that’s a close shave by any measure, and an exceptionally rare occurrence for an asteroid of this size—it’ll actually be visible to the naked eye. Current estimates place the mean width of the object at roughly 1,100 feet (350 meters). The 2029 close approach is considered a once-in-a-thousand-year