Asteroid Apophis won't smack into Earth for at least 100 years, NASA says


Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Deep Space Network's Goldstone complex in California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia picked up radio images of Apophis from distance of 10.6 million miles (17 million kilometers) away.


Bruce Willis can relax. We won't be looking at an Armageddon scenario with infamous asteroid Apophis anytime soon. NASA has ruled out the chance of Apophis impacting Earth for at least the next 100 years. 

Apophis has literally been on Earth's radar after being identified as "one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth," according to NASA. Scientists had previously been unable to rule out a very slight chance of impact in 2068, but new data puts our planet in the clear for that year.

Apophis is more formally known as 99942 Apophis 2004 MN4. Researchers first spotted it in 2004, and there was some uncertainty about its path. The asteroid made a well-distanced flyby of Earth in early March, giving scientists a chance to collect more data and sort out the space rock's future. 

"A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don't show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years," Davide Farnocchia of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies said in a statement last week.  

Researchers used a radio antenna at the Deep Space Network's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California, along with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, to collect data on Apophis and snag radar images of the asteroid.

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Apophis has been worrying in part because of its size. It's about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across, so imagine the Eiffel Tower for comparison. The new data may also tell us more about what the asteroid looks like. It could have a bi-lobed shape like a peanut.

We won't have to wait long for Apophis to make another visit to our neighborhood. In 2029, it will come within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of Earth, making a very close but safe flyby of our planet. 

NASA said the future approach will be "an unprecedented opportunity for astronomers to get a close-up view of a solar system relic that is now just a scientific curiosity and not an immediate hazard to our planet."

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