Hey, remember when the world didn’t end on December 21, 2012? Here’s some great news from the scientists at NASA: The world is also not going to end in 2029 or 2036. So now we can all rest that little bit easier at night, knowing that the inevitable demise to our time on this planet is more likely to come when we least expect it and from a far less cosmic source altogether.
In case you weren’t aware that there may have been death from above hurling towards us at an almost unimaginable rate before this reassurance from the experts, then you’ve likely not heard of Apophis. It’s an asteroid roughly the size of three and a half football fields that was believed to be headed straight for Earth, prompting another round of the by-now-traditional apocalypse anticipation that we’ve apparently been living through since people first invented the term “Millennium Bug.”
Apophis was discovered in June 2004, and initial calculations by scientists predicted that it actually had a 2.7 percent chance of hitting our planet during its initial 2029 pass by Earth, with other scientists poo-poohing that idea and predicting that it was far more likely that we’d be hit when the asteroid returned seven years later. Sadly for those who were hoping to make a killing on Apophis-related merchandise and/or eager for all life on this planet to end, it turns out the reality is a little rosier than those early guesses may suggest.
Although later analysis of those early reports revealed that the possibility of a 2029 collision were unlikely at best, no-one had dared rule out the possibility of a later impact by the asteroid as it came back on its return journey – until now. Last week, NASA announced that new information about the asteroid recorded earlier (on Wednesday, January 9 to be specific) have shown that although Apophis will come relatively close to Earth in the cosmic scheme of things, it is almost certainly impossible that it will actually collide with our planet. Instead, they suggest, the asteroid will pass by at a distance of 15 million kilometers, or 9.3 million miles, from the planet – far enough to ensure our continued survival.
In NASA’s official announcement of our kinda-sorta-near-miss, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, reassured everyone by saying that NASA scientists have “effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036,” adding that “the impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036. Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future.” So, for now, put away those apocalypse go-bags and dehydrated food packs. You’ll be okay.