A NASA scientist, working on the data gathered through the extensive tracking of the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Apophis, has concluded that the 400-meter (1312 feet, or just under one-quarter of a mile) wide asteroid poses no serious threat of colliding with the Earth in its next fly-by in 2029. In fact, the odds against the asteroid actually hitting the Earth are far higher than originally thought.
Paul Chodas, Manager of JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told Astrowatch.net that calculations could not eliminate the possibility of Apophis colliding with the Earth, the numbers indicated that said possibility of impact was increasingly less likely.
“We cannot yet exclude the possibility that it could impact our planet, but we can calculate that the chance of Earth impact is only a 1-in-100-thousand over the next century, which of course is extremely small.”
One in 100,000 odds is quite a significant increase over the initial one chance in 36 that the near-Earth object would impact Earth on April 13, 2029. But that was when it was first discovered — in 2004. Continued observation over the years has seen those odds increase again and again, scientists tweaking the numbers with each new batch of accumulated data.
Even so, Apophis, which was designated a “doomsday” asteroid with the slim initial impact odds, is still set to come as close as 29,470 kilometers (18,300 miles) of Earth during its 2029 fly-by. Seven years later, in April 2036, the potentially hazardous asteroid will pass by at a far greater distance — 49 million kilometers (30.5 million miles).
And yet, Apophis as a future impactor cannot be ruled out. Back in June, Alberto Cellino of the Observatory of Turin in Italy told Astrowatch.net that what was considered as being not dangerous in the near future could very well become so in the distant future. This is due to the chaotic orbital patterns and velocities of asteroids and the gravitational effects of objects — and collisions — on their trajectories through space.
Currently, there are 1,803 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (near-Earth objects 100 meters (328 feet) or more in diameter and is considered large enough in size to cause significant regional damage in the event of impact) that have been confirmed. They are listed by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. None of those asteroids detected (and tracked by various astronomical agencies worldwide) are deemed imminently dangerous to Earth. However, NASA estimated in 2012 that only 20 to 30 percent of the hazardous asteroids had been detected.
Earlier this year, The Inquisitr reported on an InsuranceQuotes.com study that indicated an array of potentially catastrophic asteroid impacts on American cities. For example, an asteroid measuring just 300 meters (984 feet) across, if it hit just off the coast near San Francisco, California, would result in approximately nine million deaths.
To date, there exists a rudimentary detection system to detect, track, and collect data on dangerous space objects. However, there exists no planetary defense system to mitigate or deflect such dangerous asteroids should one day one (or more) be found to be headed for a collision with Earth.
[Featured Image by Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock]