Asteroid impact ruled out at last

Earth was finally given the all-clear today over an asteroid that threatened to collide in 2036.
Latest studies show that the 300-yard wide space rock, called Apophis, will safely miss us on April 13 in that year.
However, the asteroid will fly so near the Earth on an earlier encounter on Friday the 13th of April, 2029, that it will come closer than TV and communications satellites.
During that close flyby, Apophis will become easily visible from Europe and Africa like a moderately bright star as it swiftly crosses the night sky.
Until now, astronomers have been unable to rule out a collision with Earth seven years later on April 13, 2036.
Apophis was first detected 17 months ago in December 2004, but its path could not be precisely calculated for 2036, partly due to the effects of the close encounter in 2029.
Detailed measurements were made earlier this month by bouncing radar signals off the asteroid from a giant radio telescope dish at Arecibo in Puerto Rico.
These refined the orbit and now show that Apophis will safely miss Earth in 2036.
An announcement from the International Astronomical Union today revealed that it will pass no closer than a quarter the distance of the sun
The latest measurements were made by a team from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, Arecibo Observatory and the California Institute of Technology.
The danger from Apophis and similar Near Earth Objects led both Nasa and the European Space Agency to draw up missions to avoid Armageddon.
Nasa estimated that as asteroid the size of Apophis would hit the Earth with a force equivelent to 880 megatons.
That is around 65,500 times the energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and more than four times more powerful than the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.

Photo courtesy of the NAIC – Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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