NASA has removed a huge space rock from its risk list because scientists think it has almost no chance of hitting Earth in 2068.
Previously, the ‘God of Chaos’ asteroid was given a one in 150,000 of hitting Earth in 47 years — about a third the odds of being struck by lightning.
However, a devastating impact from the space rock hasn’t been ruled out completely, it’s just not expected to happen for over 100 years.
Researchers think if asteroid Apophis, named after the Egyptian god of chaos, hit Earth then it could kill around 10 million people.
If it strikes it could unleash an explosion the equivalent of 1,200million tons of TNT or about 80,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs.
The asteroid recently shot past Earth and is expected to come fairly close in 2029.
The asteroid is thought to be taller than 1,200 feet
Nasa tweeted: “New data confirm Earth is safe from #asteroid Apophis for next 100+ years.
“Apophis was previously identified as one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, but new radar observations have ruled that out. Just another day for @NASA #PlanetaryDefense!”
Astronomer Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies said: “With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’s orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometers to just a handful of kilometers when projected to 2029.
“This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future motion, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list.”
Apophis was discovered in 2004 and used to be third on a Nasa list of collision threats to Earth.
It is about 1,200ft long, which makes it a few feet bigger than the Shard, Britain’s tallest building.
By contrast, the asteroid or comet which smacked into Earth 66million years ago, wiping out 75 per cent of species including the dinosaurs, was up to 50 miles wide.
Astronomers will continue to keep a close eye on Apophis.
There next big chance to study it closely will be in April 2029 when the asteroid is expected to come around 19,600 miles away from Earth.
Farnocchia said: “When I started working with asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster child for hazardous asteroids.
“There’s a certain sense of satisfaction to see it removed from the risk list, and we’re looking forward to the science we might uncover during its close approach in 2029.”
What’s the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?
- Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
- Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
- Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it’ll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
- Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn’t vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth’s atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
- Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)
In other space news, a new image of a black hole has been unveiled, revealing the vortex of magnetic chaos surrounding it.
Huge fragments of an alien world may be buried deep beneath the surface of our planet.
And, the DNA of 6.7 million species could be stored inside the Moon in case there’s a disaster that destroys life on Earth.
What are your thoughts on the ‘God of Chaos’ asteroid? Let us know in the comments…
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