Huge asteroid no longer a threat to Earth

Science

Huge asteroid no longer a threat to Earth

Posted:

Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Upon further review, a big scary-sounding asteroid is no longer even a remote threat to smash into Earth in about 20 years, NASA says.

Astronomers got a much better look at the asteroid when it whizzed by Earth on Wednesday from a relative safe 9 million miles away. They recalculated the space rock's trajectory and determined it wasn't on a path to hit Earth on April 13, 2036 as once feared possible.

At more than 1,060 feet wide, the rock called Apophis could do significant damage to a local area if it hit and perhaps even cause a tsunami. But it was not large enough to trigger worldwide extinctions. One prominent theory that explains the extinctions of dinosaurs and other species 65 million years ago says a six-mile-wide meteorite hit Earth and spewed vast amounts of dust into the air, cooling and darkening the planet.

About nine years ago, when astronomers first saw Apophis (uh-PAH'-fihs), they thought there was a 2.7 percent chance that it would smack into our planet. Later, they lowered the chances to an even more unlikely 1 in 250,000.

Now it's never mind.

"Certainly 2036 is ruled out," said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program. "It's why we track them so we can be assured that they won't get dangerously close."

Yeomans said now the asteroid, named after an evil Egyptian mythical serpent, won't get closer than 19,400 miles. That's still the closest approach asteroid watchers have seen for a rock this large. And when astronomers got a closer look they noticed it was about 180 feet larger than they thought, but not a threat.

Asteroids circle the sun as leftovers of failed attempts to form planets billions of years ago. When asteroids enter Earth's atmosphere, they become meteors and when they hit the ground they are meteorites.

This is the second time in as many months the asteroid watchers have had good news for Earth. Last month, astronomers got a closer look at a smaller asteroid that they had previously calculated had a 1 in 500 chance of hitting Earth, this time in 2040. And they decided the 460-foot asteroid was no longer a threat.

If you still want to see a space rock come cosmically close to Earth, there's always next month.

On Feb. 15, a small asteroid, only 130-feet wide, will come close to Earth, about 17,000 miles above the equator. That's so close it will come between our planet and some of the more distant satellites that circle the globe. But it will miss Earth.

"This will be the closest passage of an object this size," Yeomans said.

That asteroid, called 2012 DA14, should be visible with smaller telescopes and binoculars, but mostly in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia, he said.

KSWT-TV Affiliates

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Arizona, NH to get federal education funding

    Arizona, NH to get federal education funding

    Efforts to turn around Arizona's persistently low-performing schools will be getting a $10 million boost from the federal government.More >>
    Efforts to turn around Arizona's persistently low-performing schools will be getting a $10 million boost from the federal government.More >>
  • Minnesota man kills intruders; admits he was waiting for them.

    Minnesota man kills intruders; admits he was waiting for them.

    LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -Jurors heard an audio recording Tuesday of the moments when two teenagers were fatally shot by a Minnesota homeowner who says he feared for his life after several previous break-ins. Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder inthe slayings of 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kiferon Thanksgiving Day 2012. The shooting stunned the small city and stirred debate about how far people can go in defending their homes. Smith t...More >>
    LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -Jurors heard an audio recording Tuesday of the moments when two teenagers were fatally shot by a Minnesota homeowner who says he feared for his life after several previous break-ins. Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, is charged with first-degree premeditated murder inthe slayings of 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kiferon Thanksgiving Day 2012. The shooting stunned the small city and stirred debate about how far people can go in defending their homes. Smith t...More >>
  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Ventura County tree removal sparks outrage

    Ventura County tree removal sparks outrage

    Thousand Oaks officials say they will review city planning procedures after hearing from residents who are outraged over the removal of a slew of trees at a shopping center.More >>
    Thousand Oaks officials say they will review city planning procedures after hearing from residents who are outraged over the removal of a slew of trees at a shopping center.More >>
  • House strips school voucher bill

    House strips school voucher bill

    The Arizona House has given initial approval to a bill that would help expedite the approval process for parents of some students in the state school voucher program.More >>
    The Arizona House has given initial approval to a bill that would help expedite the approval process for parents of some students in the state school voucher program.More >>
  • California Condor Chick Makes 3 This Season

    California Condor Chick Makes 3 This Season

    GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ – The California condor population has another chick to count among its very small, but growing numbers. Peregrine Fund biologists confirm seeing one in a nest caveMore >>
       GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ – The California condor population has another chick to count among its very small, but growing numbers. That brings the number of wild condor chicks produced by the Arizona-Utah flock this season to three.More >>
  • Yuma

    Police offer advice for people in a robbery situation

    Police offer advice for people in a robbery situation

    YUMA, AZ (13 On Your Side) - Over the past month there have been a string of convenience store robberies around town. Most recently, one suspect - who police say - robbed three Circle Ks within 48 hours.More >>
    Over the past month there have been a string of convenience store robberies around town.More >>
  • DEA wants you to dispose of unused medications

    DEA wants you to dispose of unused medications

    The Yuma Police Department has teamed up with the Drug Enforcement Agency in an effort to dispose of your unused prescriptions. The DEA is accepting all expired and unused medications which will in turn be placed in and incinerator and destroyed; along with the drugs any labels will also be destroyed. The event is this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Yuma Police Department parking lot off of 16th Street and 1st Avenue. There's no cost to drop off your medications, all they ask is th...More >>
    The Yuma Police Department has teamed up with the Drug Enforcement Agency in an effort to dispose of your unused prescriptions. The DEA is accepting all expired and unused medications which will in turn be placed in and incinerator and destroyed; along with the drugs any labels will also be destroyed. The event is this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Yuma Police Department parking lot off of 16th Street and 1st Avenue. There's no cost to drop off your medications, all they ask is th...More >>