NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, now rebranded as OSIRIS-APEX, has embarked on a new mission to explore the asteroid Apophis, also known as the “God of Chaos.” The asteroid is set to have an incredibly close encounter with Earth’s orbit in 2029, making it the closest flyby recorded in history. OSIRIS-APEX aims to gather crucial data about the effects of Earth’s gravity on Apophis as it nears our planet.
The spacecraft, which will not land on the asteroid’s surface, is expected to operate in close proximity to Apophis for 18 months. During this time, it will analyze the asteroid’s surface, create detailed mapping, and study its chemical composition. Additionally, OSIRIS-APEX will venture within a mere 16 feet from the asteroid’s surface to observe the materials underneath.
Scientists are particularly interested in observing any changes in Apophis caused by Earth’s gravity. They will monitor potential shifts in the asteroid’s surface, as well as potential landslides and quakes. By studying these phenomena, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how gravitational forces can impact the composition and behavior of near-Earth objects.
Despite Apophis still being five years away from its closest approach to Earth, scientists are taking no chances in monitoring its movements. The asteroid will have six close passes with the sun before its anticipated close flyby in 2029. By closely observing Apophis during these passes, scientists can further refine their predictions and gather additional data about the asteroid’s trajectory.
The OSIRIS-APEX mission represents a significant step forward in our understanding of near-Earth asteroids and the potential risks they pose. Through this study, scientists hope to uncover valuable insights into the behavior and composition of these celestial bodies, ultimately contributing to our broader understanding of the universe. As the mission unfolds, researchers eagerly await the wealth of information that OSIRIS-APEX will undoubtedly provide. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting venture.
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