Scientists feared a massive asteroid called Apophis, named after the Ancient God of destruction, was going to collide with the earth in 2036. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA have effectively ruled out that the the asteroid, which passed closed to Earth on Wednesday, wont hit our planet after all.
The gigantic asteroid measures 300 meters across, which to put in perspective is about three-and-a-half football fields in length. Scientists said it would explode with the force of about 500 megatons if it were to hit our plant.
Back in 2004, scientists thought the asteroid had a one in 45 chance of hitting us in 2009. It came extremely close to Earth, passing with 32,000 km, which is nearer than many satellites. Fast forward to 2036 and scientists predicted there was a one in 200,000 chance it would collide with Earth. But new research shows it has dropped to pretty much zero according to The Huffington Post.
NASA’s, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL said,
“With the new data provided by the Magdalena Ridge and the Pan-STARRS optical observatories, along with very recent data provided by the Goldstone Solar System Radar, we have effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036. The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036. Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future.”
Aphophis will fly by us again in 2029 and 2036. When it hurtles by Earth on April 13, 2029, it will be one the the closest flyby of an asteroid its size, coming within 19,400 miles above Earth.
Even though we are in the clear concerning Apophis, NASA’s Near Earth Object program is still tracking more 9,000 objects and say thousands are still unknown. On the upside, NASA says if an asteroid were to emerge on a collision course with Earth we probably wouldn’t know until it’s too late.