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Planetary defense experts use infamous asteroid Apophis to practice spotting dangerous space rocks

Scientists prepare for their final close examination of asteroid Apophis ahead of the 2029 flyby

The most recent touching Earth with the danger of asteroids dates back eight years, when a space rock the size of a six-story building apparently appeared out of nowhere, injuring 1,200 people when it exploded in- above Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Now, scientists are using this month’s flyby of the infamous asteroid Apophis to test their responses to potentially dangerous space rocks, perfecting the art of planetary defense. Planetary Defense focuses on identifying the asteroids and comets that hang around the Earth, mapping their precise trajectories and seeing how their orbits compare to those of Earth.

If an orbital model shows that an asteroid and Earth must reach the same location at the same time, things get serious, especially when the space rock is large. This is the kind of scenario that ended the reign of the dinosaurs, after all. But planetary defense isn’t hopeless: If humans identify a dangerous asteroid long enough before impact, we could theoretically do something to deflect it.

Related: Scientists Prepare For Their Last Close Examination Of Asteroid Apophis Ahead Of 2029 Flyby

Success in preventing damage from an asteroid impact will require spotting the threat in time, which takes practice. But although scientists have …

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