Russia’s space agency has been holding meetings about Apophis – the asteroid due to pass close to Earth in 2029. If it is not diverted, a collision could potentially kill millions, scientists say.
“Apophis was discovered in 2004,” explains Boris Shustov, Director of the Institute of Astronomy. “The probability of a collision with the Earth was very high, about 1 to 30. The collision of such a large body with our planet will cause great damage.”
Although others have estimated the probability of the collision to be lower, an asteroid with a diameter of 300m is still a cause for concern.
Scientists insist that the critical moment will come in 2029 when Apophis passes so close to Earth that it will be visible to the naked eye. Although there will be no threat of an impact at that particular moment, it is not until then that scientists will know whether or not the 27 million ton rock will eventually collide with Earth when it approaches it again in 2036.
NASA has dismissed all fears saying the chances of a collision are remote.
“I know that NASA scientists have been very busy tracking the orbit of this particular asteroid very, very carefully, and I know that they’ve now downgraded this risk considerably,” said Patrick Fullick, founder and president of Science Connections foundation in London. “So, it looks as if this particular asteroid is not particularly likely to hit the Earth in 25 years’ time, but that’s not to say that there is not a real risk of something like this happening.”