January 13, 2013
NASA Rules Out Apophis Asteroid Collision In 2036
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
There is a less than one-in-a-million chance that a massive asteroid, approximately as wide as three American football fields, will collide with Earth in 2036, NASA officials confirmed on Wednesday.According to MSNBC.com´s Alan Boyle, the “all-clear” was sounded by the US space agency after asteroid Apophis came within nine million miles of our planet.
In fact, officials with NASA´s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Boyle the space rock would probably miss Earth by 36 million miles, and would absolutely pass no closer than 14 million miles away.
“The scientists used updated information obtained by NASA-supported telescopes in 2011 and 2012, as well as new data from the time leading up to Apophis' distant Earth flyby yesterday (Jan. 9),” officials from the organization explained in a statement.
“Discovered in 2004, the asteroid“¦ gathered the immediate attention of space scientists and the media when initial calculations of its orbit indicated a 2.7 percent possibility of an Earth impact during a close flyby in 2029,” they added. “Data discovered during a search of old astronomical images provided the additional information required to rule out the 2029 impact scenario, but a remote possibility of one in 2036 remained — until yesterday.”
Using the Goldstone Solar System Radar located in the Mojave Desert, JPL scientists recorded single-pixel observations of Apophis, which is what allowed them to officially rule out the threat of impact, according to Discovery News.
However, Dan Vergano of USA Today notes the asteroid will approach closely in 2029, when it is less than 20,000 miles away, or 10 times closer to the Earth than the moon.
While NASA officials called that fly-by “one for the record books,” Don Yeomans, manager of the agency´s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL, said “a closer approach by a lesser-known asteroid” was going to take place “much sooner” than that. In fact, he said that, “in the middle of next month“¦ a 40-meter-sized asteroid, 2012 DA14, flies safely past Earth's surface at about 17,200 miles.”
“With new telescopes coming online, the upgrade of existing telescopes and the continued refinement of our orbital determination process, there's never a dull moment working on near-Earth objects,” he added.