The “dangerous” asteroid Apophis flew relative close to Earth on March 6, when the 370-metre asteroid came within just 16 million kilometres of our planet. As it came close, it shone like a 16th magnitude star – which is extremely faint.
The gigantic space rock will pass even closer to Earth in 2029, but it is the 2068 flyby that experts are most concerned about.
But astronomers used this flyby to analyse the asteroid which some fear could hit the planet in 2068.
This is because its orbit could be shifted come 2029 when it will pass as close as some satellites orbit.
Astronomer Dr Tony Phillips wrote on his Space Weather site: “If the words ‘Asteroid Apophis’ give you a frisson of dread, good news: The dangerous space rock is receding from Earth.
“The 370-meter wide asteroid completed a distant flyby of Earth in early March, about 0.11 AU (16 million km) away.
“At closest approach it shone like a 16th magnitude star. Only experienced astrophotographers like Jaeger had any hope of seeing it.
“Next time will be different. When Apophis returns on April 13, 2029, it will come so close to Earth that you can see it with your naked eye (3rd magnitude).
“The asteroid will not hit us, but it will come as close as many communications satellites.
READ MORE: Asteroid 231937 photographed before Earth close approach
But while the chances are small, they are there.
Apophis will go on to orbit the Sun and will make a close approach again to Earth in 2029.
Scientists at the institute detected what is known as a Yarkovsky acceleration on the surface of the asteroid, which could influence the rock’s path for its 2068 flyby.
The Yarkovsky effect is when an asteroid or celestial body changes its orbit due to small push of heat, either from itself expelling gasses, or the gravitational push and shove from celestial bodies including the Sun and Earth.
In this instance, the scientists discovered a small thermal reaction which could slightly alter Apophis’s course.