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Earth Escapes Most Dangerous Asteroid (That We Know About)

Once given a 1-in-45 chance of smacking into the Earth, the odds are now effectively zero

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Apophis is the little dot in the circle. Photo: UH/IA

Discovered in 2004, the asteroid Apophis—named for the Egyptian god of darkness and chaos—has been responsible for nearly a decade of hand wringing for those worried about the asteroid’s impending impact with the Pacific ocean, an event forecast for April 13, 2036. Here, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks in a 2008 presentation about what that would mean for life here on Earth:

Of all the known asteroids out there in the void, Apophis was once known as “the most likely asteroid to hit the Earth“— earlier this month the best calculations put the odds of a 2036 collision at 1 in 250,000, Wired says, but at one point the odds of a 2029 collision were thought to be 1 in 45.* On Wednesday, however, the asteroid, which bears the full name 99942 Apophis, made a close approach to Earth, passing around 9 million miles away. Based on observations made during this fly-by, says NASA, the scheduled 2036 impact with the 1,066-foot wide rock can now be effectively ruled out. The updated odds of an impact? 1 in 7,143,000, according to Discovery News.

So, crisis averted. But still, says NASA, “he April 13, 2029, flyby of asteroid Apophis will be one for the record books. On that date, Apophis will become the closest flyby of an asteroid of its size when it comes no closer than 19, 400 miles (31,300 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.”

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there is only one asteroid with even a slight chance of hitting the planet, a 130 meter-wide rock known as 2007 VK184—the newest most dangerous asteroid that we know about.  If it does hit us, the event may take place on June 3, 2048.  (Odds: 1 in 570 000.)

*Post updated to reflect even more dire—but now irrelevant—odds

More from Smithsonian.com:

Giant Paintball Gun Could Save the World From Death-by-Asteroid
NASA Wants to Drag an Asteroid Into Orbit Around the Moon

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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