A 300 metre-wide [1000 ft.] asteroid is making a close pass to the Earth.
Apophis - named after the Egyptian demon of destruction and darkness - has been put on a watch list by scientists.
They have calculated that in 2036 there is a very small chance it could collide with our planet.
Apophis asteroid: Large space rock flies past Earth
Well, nevermind, as NASA announced today:
NASA scientists at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., effectively have ruled out the possibility the asteroid Apophis will impact Earth during a close flyby in 2036. The scientists used updated information obtained by NASA-supported telescopes in 2011 and 2012, as well as new data from the time leading up to Apophis' distant Earth flyby yesterday (Jan. 9).
NASA Rules Out Earth Impact in 2036 for Asteroid Apophis
Space.com provided this graphic to explain it all:
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration
So, bottom line:
- 2029: Close, but within the altitude for a geosynchronous orbit, 36,000 km [22,000 mi.]
- 2036: Not that close, actually.
Now you can worry about something else for the next twenty years. You're welcome.
As I've mentioned before, though, this is mainly a worry because we have almost nothing in the way of a manned spaceflight program anymore. Had we been producing ships capable of interplanetary flight, we'd at least have the possibility of deflecting Apophis-sized asteroids or destroying them before they reach Earth. Twenty years' lead time is a long time, and sometimes just a little push way ahead of time can turn a hit into another near miss.
Both the Space.com and NASA links discuss the fact that there are lots more asteroids out there, and more than a few comets.
Sadly, our government is far more interested in blowing up other countries and making the world safe for bank fraud than it is about things like exploring the universe or avoiding real disasters.
UPDATE: The initial version of this article used the words "asynchronous orbit", which as far as I know isn't even a real term. What I meant was "geosynchronous orbit".