Apophis 2029 - RT Quickly Changes the SubjectSubmitted by Brian Frank on Fri, 02/15/2013 - 15:38
99942 Apophis (pron.: /əˈpɒfɪs/, previously known by its provisional designation 2004 MN4) is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7% that it would strike the Earth in 2029. Additional observations provided improved predictions that eliminated the possibility of an impact on Earth or the Moon in 2029. However, a possibility remained that during the 2029 close encounter with Earth, Apophis would pass through a gravitational keyhole, a small region no more than about 800 m (half a mile) wide, that would set up a future impact on April 13, 2036. This possibility kept the asteroid at Level 1 on the Torino impact hazard scale until August 2006, when the probability that Apophis would pass through the keyhole was determined to be very small. Apophis broke the record for the highest level on the Torino Scale, being, for only a short time, a level 4, before it was lowered.
The diameter of Apophis is approximately 325 metres (1,066 ft). As of the December 29, 2012 observation arc, the probability of an April 13, 2036 impact is considered to be 1 in 11,000,000. Preliminary observations by Goldstone radar in January 2013 have effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036. Of objects not recently observed, there are about ten asteroids with a more notable Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale than Apophis. On average, an asteroid the size of Apophis (325 meters) can be expected to impact Earth about every 80,000 years or so.