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The space rock, named Apophis, will no doubt make a big splash in the news unless a Donald Trump-like character is the president in which case he will take credit for saving the world.
So, if this isn’t enough, Apophis will make a return trip, and we earthlings can breathe a sigh of relief. That being said, however, the year 2068 might well be a different story, as scientists, after making new calculations, concluded they can’t rule out a collision with earth.
While an impact remains unlikely, that year is no longer in the safe category. A post at Phys.org explains that astronomers factored in something called the Yarkovsky effect, which happens when the sun hits one side of an asteroid. “As the heat radiates away from the asteroid, a small amount of energy pushes back against the asteroid, forcing it to turn slightly,” reads the post.
Unfortunately, this tiny adjustment—a difference of about 560 feet a year off the original orbit—means Apophis now has a shot at hitting Earth. “Basically, the heat that an asteroid radiates gives it a very tiny push,” says University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer David Tholen.
Well before this recalculation however, astronomers thought Apophis had absolutely no chance of hitting Earth in 2068. The asteroid is 1,120 feet wide and thus capable of doing some real damage. The good news is that astronomers will have a much better sense of things after the 2029 flyby. For now, though, “the 2068 impact scenario is still in play,” says Tholen. (More about the asteroid here.)