Scientists Spar Over Asteroid Apocalypse in 2036

1-in-250,000 chance that Apophis will hit Earth

By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 7, 2011 6:46 PM CST

(Newser) – If that whole end-of-the-world thing doesn't work out next year, maybe the jig is up in 2036: Scientists are now saying that's the year an asteroid previously thought harmless (after having been deemed catastrophic before that) might just plow into the Earth. A few Russian scientists are warning that Apophis, which is expected to come within five Earth radii of our planet, will hit a gravitational "keyhole" that will pull it onto a collision course, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Apophis—which the Russian scientists estimate will hit our planet on April 13, 2036—has a diameter of two football fields, so a collision could be catastrophic. But NASA says the chance of an impact is slight. "Technically, they’re correct, there is a chance in 2036 that Apophis will hit Earth," said Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office. But that chance is just one in 250,000, he says.

An image provided by the German Aerospace Center DLR on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 shows a two photos combo of the asteroid Steins, on Friday, Sept. 5, 2008.
An image provided by the German Aerospace Center DLR on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 shows a two photos combo of the asteroid Steins, on Friday, Sept. 5, 2008.   (AP Photo/ESA)
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