NASA scientists recently determined that an asteroid they once thought had a high possibility of hitting Earth in 2036 is no longer a threat — for now.
Discovered in 2004, the asteroid — which scientists later named Apophis, after an ancient Egyptian mythological demon — is expected to make a close pass near Earth in 2029, a mere 22,364 miles from the planet.
The asteroid would be closer to Earth at that point than the geostationary satellites currently in orbit.
Scientists had hypothesized that the Earth’s gravitational pull might then alter the course of the object, bringing it on a possible collision course. The asteroid would potentially strike Earth with a force of 880 megatons — or “about 17 Tsars, the biggest nuclear bomb ever created,” Gizmodo noted. By comparison, the asteroid believed to have killed off the dinosaurs hit the Earth with a 100,000,000 megaton blast.
The asteroid had a 3 percent chance of hitting the planet, scientists projected.
NASA determined in the past week, however, that Apophis no longer poses a life-threatening danger to Earth’s inhabitants, even though it may have a major impact on weather patterns.
“The worry about Apophis has only been postponed, not eliminated,” reported Sky & Telescope. “Its orbit is not all that different from Earth’s, and some day in the distant future the two bodies will either have a catastrophic collision — or an encounter so close that Earth’s gravity will yank Apophis onto a new and significantly different interplanetary path.”