NASA: Former Doomsday Asteroid 'Apophis' Poses 'Zero' Risk in 2036 [UPDATE]

By @Len_IBTimes on

Asteroid Apophis, which passed by Earth from late night Wednesday to midnight Thursday, has lost its doomsday label. The probability that this rock could impact Earth has been ruled out by scientists. This is great news based on new data gathered by NASA. Considering scientists have just found out Apophis is even bigger than initially thought, Earthlings have a reason to celebrate.

Related News: Apophis Whizzes Past Earth, Bigger than Expected: Why is it called 'doomsday asteroid?'

Near-Earth asteroid Apophis, which was previously measured to be about 270 meters in diameter, was discovered on June 19, 2004. A day before its 2013 approach, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced findings that Apophis is actually about 325 meters wide.

Apophis' orbital path makes it approach Earth every seven years or so. Several studies have been made since it was first noted that there is a relatively small chance that Apophis' orbit could cross Earth's, specifically by year 2036. This chance was reported to be higher back in 2004. At the time, Apophis gained the "doomsday asteroid" label. Eventually, the threat was reduced to "one in a million."

A one-in-a-million chance is somewhat comforting, but on Jan. 9 as the asteroid approached Earth, NASA's Goldstone radar facility was able to get more information about its orbit.

NASA "found the asteroid will definitely miss the keyhole in 2029, and thus miss us in 2036," explains astronomer Phil Plait.

"Observations taken a couple of years ago nailed down the orbit better, and the odds dropped to about one in a million," writes Plait. "But still, a better number would be zero. And that's where we are now."  

Related News: an. 9 Asteroid Apophis: 6 Things to Know, Why Scientists Feared Impact

The keyhole mentioned is a region in space through which Apophis could pass based on initial studies of its orbit. It was earlier reported that should Apophis pass through the keyhole in 2029, it would be in a orbit that could result in an impact in 2036. Now this possibility has been ruled out, thanks to new information gathered when Apophis was fairly closer to Earth (14 million kilometers or 9 million miles away) just a day ago.

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