A massive asteroid once believed to be on course to hit Earth, then largely ruled out, could be back on course to wreak destruction.
When it was discovered in 2004, initial calculations showed 99942 Apophis had almost a 3 percent chance of slamming into Earth in 2029.
More measurements showed while it will pass close enough to be seen with the naked eye, it’ll miss. Another close encounter in 2036 will remain just that – close – but no one’s managed to rule out a collision in 2068.
Until recently, the chances were estimated at one-in-150,000 – but a new discovery about the 370m-wide asteroid has astronomers and physicists racing back to their calculators.
The recent study shows that the asteroid is drifting away from its previously predicted orbit by about 557 feet every year.
In a press conference, lead author David Tholen said, “The 2068 impact scenario is still in play” and maintained that a chance of impact can’t be ruled out just now.
Asteroid 99942 Apophis is more than 1,000 feet in size, which is equal to three football fields and it is expected to pass by at a distance of 31,900 kilometres from Earth’s surface on 13 April 2029. It is unusual for an asteroid of this size to pass so close to our planet.
Living up to its sensational status, Apophis was named after a demon serpent who personified evil and chaos in ancient Egyptian mythology. It is thought to be the enemy of the sun god Ra.