No Armageddon: Asteroid Apophis won’t hit Earth for at least 100 years say NASA

Photo caption: These images represent radar observations of asteroid 99942 Apophis on March 8, 9, and 10, 2021, as it made its last close approach before its 2029 Earth encounter that will see the object pass our planet by less than 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers). Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO


The previously identified ‘high risk to Earth’ Apophis Asteroid isn’t the immediate threat that the US space agency had previously thought. NASA has given Earth the all clear from the chances of a much-feared asteroid hitting the planet any time this century, after concerning space scientists for 15 years.

It had been forecasted to be heading ‘frightening close’ to Earth in 2029 and again in 2036 these were ruled out by NASA but a potential 2068 collision still loomed. But new telescope observations mean the 2068 collision has also been ruled out and Apophis officially taken off the US space agency’s asteroid “risk list”.

“A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometres to just a handful of kilometres when projected to 2029. This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future motion, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list.”

Estimated to be about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across, Apophis is named after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and darkness. Space enthusiasts on the eastern hemisphere will have a chance to glimpse the hazardous asteroid on 13 April 2029, when the asteroid is expected to pass within 20,000 miles of the Earth's surface. That’s a distance that is ten times closer than the Moon is to the Earth, making it visible to the naked eye. It’s also an unprecedented opportunity for astronomers to get a close-up view of a solar system relic that is now just a scientific curiosity and not an immediate hazard to our planet.

“When I started working with asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster child for hazardous asteroids,” said Farnocchia. “There’s a certain sense of satisfaction to see it removed from the risk list, and we’re looking forward to the science we might uncover during its close approach in 2029.”


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