NASA Says God of Chaos Asteroid Won't Hit Earth for 100 Years at Least

The "poster child" for hazardous asteroids—named after an ancient Egyptian god of chaos—has no chance of striking the Earth over the next 100 years at the very least, according to a new NASA analysis.

Prior to the latest analysis, a small chance remained that the space rock, known as 99942 Apophis, could collide with our planet in the year 2068.

While calculations showed that this chance was tiny—one of the latest estimates suggested a probability of around one in 380,000—the new analysis has now definitively ruled out this possibility, with astronomers gaining a better understanding of the asteroid's orbit around the sun.

The space rock, which is estimated to measure around 1,100 feet across, was discovered in 2004 and quickly gained notoriety after astronomers initially predicted that it had around a 2.7 percent chance of colliding with the Earth during a close approach in 2029.

This is a relatively high probability and briefly caused concern in the astronomical community, given that an impact involving an object of this size would cause widespread devastation on our planet.

But subsequent research ruled out a collision with our planet during the close approach in 2029, and indeed the asteroid's next close approach in 2036. This left only the tiny potential for an impact during the close approach in 2068.

"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," Davide Farnocchia from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS,) said in a statement.

"When I started working with asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster child for hazardous asteroids," Farnocchia said. "There's a certain sense of satisfaction to see it removed from the risk list, and we're looking forward to the science we might uncover during its close approach in 2029."

The list Farnocchia referred to is the Sentry Impact Risk Table maintained by CNEOS, which includes the handful of known asteroids with orbits that will take the objects so close to Earth that an impact cannot be ruled out.

Astronomers were able to confidently rule out a collision in 2068 after analyzing observations of the space rock conducted during a recent, distant flyby when Apophis passed the Earth at a distance of more than 10 million miles.

"Although Apophis made a recent close approach with Earth, it was still nearly 10.6 million miles away. Even so, we were able to acquire incredibly precise information about its distance to an accuracy of about 150 meters [490 feet]," Marina Brozovic from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

"This campaign not only helped us rule out any impact risk, it set us up for a wonderful science opportunity."

An asteroid
Stock image: Artist's illustration of an asteroid passing the Earth. A new analysis has found that the asteroid Apophis has no chance of striking the Earth in at least the next 100 years. iStock