NASA scientists have recalculated the path of the large asteroid Apophis, significantly downgrading the odds of it hitting Earth. Using new information, the refined path indicates a 1 in 250,000 chance of impact in 2036, reduced from the 1 in 45,000 odds calculated earlier. The asteroid is expected to make a record-setting — but harmless — close approach to Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029, when it comes no closer than 18,300 miles above Earth’s surface.
The new information provided a more accurate glimpse of 2036 Apophis’ orbit well into the latter part of this century. Among the findings is another close encounter by the asteroid with Earth in 2068 with chance of impact currently at approximately 1 in 333,000. As with earlier orbital estimates where Earth impacts in 2029 and 2036 could not initially be ruled out due to the need for additional data, it is expected that the 2068 encounter will diminish in probability as more information about 2029 Apophis is acquired.
Initially, Apophis was thought to have a 2.7 percent chance of impacting Earth in 2029. Additional observations of the asteriod ruled out any possibility of an impact in 2029.
The science of predicting asteroid orbits is based on a physical model of the solar system which includes the gravitational influence of the sun, moon, other planets and the three largest asteroids.