Whew! Big asteroid no longer threat to Earth (Update)

Jan 10, 2013 by Seth Borenstein
This NASA image shows asteroid Apophis. The space rock popularly dubbed the "doomsday asteroid" because of fears it could smash into Earth a couple of decades from now poses no risk, NASA said after new observations of the object.

Upon further review, a big scary-sounding asteroid is no longer even a remote threat to smash into Earth in about 20 years, NASA says.

Astronomers got a much better look at the asteroid when it whizzed by Earth on Wednesday from a relative safe 9 million miles away. They recalculated the space rock's trajectory and determined it wasn't on a path to hit Earth on April 13, 2036 as once feared possible.

At more than 1,060 feet (323 meters) wide, the rock called Apophis could do significant damage to a local area if it hit and perhaps even cause a tsunami. But it was not large enough to trigger worldwide extinctions. One prominent theory that explains the extinctions of dinosaurs and other species 65 million years ago says a 6-mile(9.6-kilometer)-wide meteorite hit Earth and spewed vast amounts of dust into the air, cooling and darkening the planet.

About nine years ago, when astronomers first saw Apophis, they thought there was a 2.7 percent chance that it would smack into our planet. Later, they lowered the chances to an even more unlikely 1 in 250,000.

Now it's never mind.

"Certainly 2036 is ruled out," said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program. "It's why we track them so we can be assured that they won't get dangerously close."

Yeomans said now the asteroid, named after an evil Egyptian mythical serpent, won't get closer than 19,400 miles (31,200 kilometers). That's still the closest approach asteroid watchers have seen for a rock this large. And when astronomers got a closer look they noticed it was about 180 feet (54 meters) larger than they thought, but not a threat.

Asteroids circle the sun as leftovers of failed attempts to form planets billions of years ago. When asteroids enter Earth's atmosphere, they become meteors and when they hit the ground they are meteorites.

This is the second time in as many months the asteroid watchers have had good news for Earth. Last month, astronomers got a closer look at a smaller asteroid that they had previously calculated had a 1 in 500 chance of hitting Earth, this time in 2040. And they decided the 460-foot (140-meter) asteroid was no longer a threat.

If you still want to see a space rock come cosmically close to Earth, there's always next month.

On Feb. 15, a small asteroid, only 130-feet (40-meters) wide, will come close to Earth, about 17,000 miles (27,350 kilometers) above the equator. That's so close it will come between our planet and some of the more distant satellites that circle the globe. But it will miss Earth.

"This will be the closest passage of an object this size," Yeomans said.

That asteroid, called 2012 DA14, should be visible with smaller telescopes and binoculars, but mostly in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia, he said.

Explore further: NASA ultra-black nano-coating to be applied to 3-D new solar coronagraph

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PJS
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2013
could still happen if it's deflected by another asteroid
alq131
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2013
"This will be the closest passage of an object this size," Yeomans said.

....that we know about. Maybe it's statistically insignificant, but it is interesting that as we look more, we seem to be seeing more that were unknown and have close passes.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2013
Any asteroid near a kilometer in diameter can cause enough debris for at least one summer to be cooled to fall temperatures. At 7 billion people the global food supply could easily be disruptedenough to cause a historically massive famine easily starving at least 100 million people in 1 year and pushing the world closer to world war as labor prices rise dramtically food prices rise even faster....and employment plummets. Forcing government to levy more and more taxes from fewer people. Eventually governments will be forced to nationalize entire industries...placing dexisionmaking power in the hands of a grand council of politicians if not a dictator tyrant. This is usually something increasing the odds of major war. Once global supply chains are stopped because of war....100 million dead will seem like a pleasant numver.

Instead of global warming.......asteroid strikes are a much more tangible danger that global elitists should invest money into preventing this.