A 37 metre wide asteroid will fly by the Earth this weekend - here’s how to improve your chances of spotting it

Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:50 pm
A 37 metre wide asteroid will fly by the Earth this weekend - here’s how to improve your chances of spotting it (Photo: Shutterstock)

One of the solar system’s most infamous asteroids will pass by Earth today (Fri 5 Mar).

Asteroid 99942 Apophis will come even closer to our planet on 13 April 2029, but those with a high quality telescope will be able to watch the space rock fly by.

‘God of Chaos’

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Apophis, which is nicknamed the ‘God of Chaos’, is set to fly past us late this evening.

The asteroid was discovered in 2004 and is an Aten asteroid. The rock is about 1,200 feet or 37 metres wide and orbits the sun every 324 days.

Initial early estimates suggested there was a small chance of the space rock hitting Earth in 2029, but scientists ruled out that possibility after looking into archival images, NASA said.

Experts at NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California have been observing the asteroid since 3 March, and will continue watching until 14 March.

On 5 March, Asteroid Apophis will come within 10,471,577 miles of the planet, which is roughly 43 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

NASA said of that fly-by: “This will be the closest approach by something this large currently known.

“Apophis will be visible to the naked eye for several hours, and Earth tides will probably change its spin state.”

On 13 April 2029, the asteroid is set to be far closer to our planet, potentially coming within 19,400 miles of Earth, and will be visible to the naked eye. However, calculations gave it a 2.7 per cent chance of impacting the planet.

What time is the asteroid flying by?

The best time to view the asteroid from the UK will be at 1am on Saturday 6 March.

Personal telescopes may struggle to see Apophis due to its faintness, as it's only going to have a visual magnitude of roughly 15 or 16.

Those looking to get a view of the space rock will need either a 12 inch diameter or larger telescope to spot it. Alternatively equipping a smaller telescope with a sensitive camera can allow some people to process the images for later viewing.