Just two nights ago scientists had the chance to reappraise the threat from near-Earth asteroid Apophis, and they discovered it was BIGGER and HEAVIER than they thought, meaning that an impact would cause more wholesale devastation, possibly leading to an impact winter!
But they also determined that it isn’t going to hit us.
When 2004 MN4 (as it was first designated) was discovered in 2004, the outlook was pretty intimidating: a bit shy of a thousand feet long, heavier than your average aircraft carrier, and a 1 in 37 chance of SMASHING INTO EARTH OR THE MOON! This granted it a level 4 on the Torino Scale (i.e., a big deal) and generally kickstarted a few doomsday pools in offices across the land. Although it would pass by the planet before (and just did) the initial danger year was 2029. As time went on (and the asteroid was given an official number, and then a name) new reports filtered in, including a revised Torino Scale ranking of less than zero.
There was, however, a chance that when it passes in 2029 that it would pass through a gravitational keyhole and alter its orbit, so that when it comes a-calling in 2036, it MIGHT STILL SMASH INTO EARTH OR THE MOON!
But that isn’t going to happen.
The latest measurements, while they have upped the size of Apophis by about 75%, have determined that there will be no peeking through this gravitational keyhole in 2029!
There. We can now safely scratch Apophis off the list of ASTEROIDS THAT COULD POSSIBLY SMASH INTO EARTH OR THE MOON!
At least until they revise the numbers again…