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Current Page: U.S. | Thursday, August 17, 2017
What Are the Odds of an Asteroid Hitting Earth?

What Are the Odds of an Asteroid Hitting Earth?

An artistic illustration of an asteroid crashing to Earth. | Wikimedia Commons/Dmytro Ivashchenko

NASA scientists have revealed that an asteroid will fly very close to Earth in 2029, but there is virtually zero chance that it could hit the planet. In fact, the chance of the rock impacting the globe is only one in 100,000, which is "extremely small" based on their calculation.

That particular near-Earth asteroid is Apophis which caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of one in 36 that it would hit Earth on April 13, 2009. It is precisely for that reason why the rock was named after the Egyptian god of evil and destruction.

However, additional monitoring of Apophis eliminated the possibility of a collision course with Earth. Now, scientists have determined that the 1,000-foot space rock will get as close as 18,300 miles to Earth, which is still too close for comfort as it will be closer than some satellites.

The next time Apophis will come back to Earth will be in 2036, but it will be at a much farther distance of 30.5 miles. Although scientists have ruled out collisions in the next two flybys, the future beyond that is unclear. This is the reason why NASA came up with prevention measures on how to deal with hazardous asteroids.

One of the protocols is to hit the asteroid with an object to deflect it to another trajectory. Another course of action is the so-called gravity tractor technique, which would entail launching a spacecraft close to the rock and use mass to pull it off course. These two techniques, however, will require a lead time of 10 years.

Scientists aren't ruling out the Armageddon-type option which is to plant a nuclear device on the asteroid if there isn't enough time for anything else. NASA's Planetary Defense Coordinating Office will test its incoming asteroid response when the small 2012 TC4 asteroid comes close to Earth in October this year.

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