Earthlings will exhale a sigh of relief after Nasa, the US space agency, declared the world “protected” from a once-feared asteroid for at least the next 100 years.
Since its discovery in 2004, Nasa designated Apophis as one of the most hazardous asteroids to Earth.
Close calls were predicted in 2029 and 2036 but were later ruled out. For the year 2068, there was already a minor threat.
However, a recent study of the asteroid has led Nasa to ignore the threat.
“A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years,” a scientist who studies near-Earth objects for Nasa, Davide Farnocchia, mentioned in a statement on Friday.
Apophis, named for the ancient Egyptian god of disorder and darkness, is measured to be 340m (1,100ft) across, about the equivalent of three football pitches in the United Kingdom.
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! https://t.co/RMhuLQyHrZ pic.twitter.com/Q5A0RAfFUY
— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) March 26, 2021
On March 5, the asteroid made a close flyby of Earth, coming within 17 million kilometers (10 million miles).
Astronomers were able to refine their estimation of the asteroid’s orbit around the Sun using radar measurements, enabling them to easily rule out any impact possibility in 2068 and beyond.
Mr Farnocchia said, “When I first began dealing with asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster child for hazardous asteroids.”
“It gives me a feeling of relief that it’s no longer on the risk list.”
“We’re looking forward to the research we could discover during its near approach in 2029,” he said.