After collecting data from Asteroid Apophis' distant Earth flyby yesterday, NASA confirms that the asteroid will not collide with the Earth in 2036.
The Slooh Space Camera caught a glimpse of the much-talked-about Apophis on Jan. 9 as it passed 9 million miles away from Earth. While the asteroid's size isn't that large about three and a half football fields it's notable because it will come very close contact with Earth when it circles back around in 23 years.
When the asteroid was discovered in 2004, scientists initially calculated that it had a 2.7% chance of hitting Earth in 2029. While that scenario was eventually ruled out, a collision in 2036 still had a 1 in 250,000 chance. However, Apophis' Jan. 9 appearance gave scientists enough information to safely confirm that we would not, in fact, have a catastrophic run-in with the asteroid.
"The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL, in a press release. "Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future."
Nevertheless, Apophis will still come extremely close to Earth. It will be just 19,400 miles away in 2029 and about 17,200 miles from Earth's surface in 2036. That's so close that some people in parts of the world will be able to see it in the sky with the naked eye.