In 2004, NASA scientists announced that there was a chance that Apophis, an asteroid larger than two football fields, could smash into Earth in 2029. A few additional observations and some number-crunching later, astronomers noted that the chance of the planet-killer hitting Earth in 2029 was nearly zilch.
Now, reports out of Russia say that scientists there estimate Apophis will collide with Earth on April 13, 2036. These reports conflict on the probability of such a doomsday event, but the question remains: How scared should we be?
“Technically, they’re correct, there is a chance in 2036 [that Apophis will hit Earth]," said Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office. However, that chance is just 1-in-250,000, Yeomans said.
The Russian scientists are basing their predictions of a collision on the chance that the 900-foot-long (270 meters) Apophis will travel through what’s called a gravitational keyhole as it passes by Earth in 2029. The gravitational keyhole they mention is a precise region in space, only slightly larger than the asteroid itself, in which the effect of Earth's gravity is such that it could tweak Apophis' path.
“The situation is that in 2029, April 13, [Apophis] flies very close to the Earth, within five Earth radii, so that will be quite an event, but we’ve already ruled out the possibility of it hitting at that time,” Yeomans told Life’s Little Mysteries. “On the other hand, if it goes through what we call a keyhole during that close Earth approach … then it will indeed be perturbed just right so that it will come back and smack Earth on April 13, 2036,” Yeomans said.
Answer by tootoobusy at 9:19 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
Answer by Sharell8710 at 9:21 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
Answer by itsmesteph11 at 9:22 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
Answer by SuperChicken at 9:23 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
No. I do my best to not worry about things I can't control.
Answer by QuinnMae at 9:24 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
Answer by vicesix at 9:24 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
Answer by palexander at 9:27 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
That sort of news doesn't worry me. As others have said, it's not something that we can control, and I don't think Chicken Little was a very happy bird running around in a state of constant panic. Que será, será.
Answer by jsbenkert at 9:43 AM on Feb. 7, 2011
Answer by UpSheRises at 9:53 AM on Feb. 7, 2011