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Earth safe from Apophis asteroid hit

Marcia Dunn, April 6, 2021 6:30PM AP

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An illustration of a large asteroid heading towards Earth. Thankfully, NASA has ruled out this happening for at least the next 100 years with the asteroid Apophis. Picture: NASA media_cameraAn illustration of a large asteroid heading towards Earth. Thankfully, NASA has ruled out this happening for at least the next 100 years with the asteroid Apophis. Picture: NASA

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Phew, now here’s some good cosmic* news: NASA has given Earth the all clear for the next century* from a particularly menacing* asteroid.

The space agency has announced that new telescope observations have ruled out any chance of Apophis crashing into Earth in 2068.

That’s the same 340m space rock that was supposed to come frighteningly close in 2029 and again in 2036.

NASA ruled out any chance of a strike during those two close approaches a while ago. But a potential 2068 collision still loomed*.

First detected in 2004, Apophis is now officially off NASA’s asteroid “risk list.”

“A 2068 impact is not in the realm* of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.

media_cameraThe Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, in the US, which was used to receive the radar observations of Apophis. Photo: Martin George
media_cameraThe radar images of Apophis show it is a long asteroid and also that there is no chance of a collision for at least the next century. Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/NSF/AUI/GBO

Scientists were able to refine* their understanding of Apophis’ orbit around the sun thanks to radar observations in March, when the asteroid passed within 17 million kilometres of Earth.

Apophis will come within 32,000km on April 13, 2029, enabling astronomers to get another good look.

“When I started working with asteroids after college, Apophis was the poster* child for hazardous* asteroids,” Mr Farnocchia said.

“There’s a certain sense of satisfaction to see it removed from the risk list.”

NASA's Asteroid Defence System

GLOSSARY

  • cosmic: to do with the universe
  • menacing: threatening
  • loomed: seemed it would happen
  • century: 100 years
  • realm: range
  • refine: make changes to improve or make clearer
  • poster child: best example of something
  • hazardous: risky, dangerous

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the name of the asteroid in this story?
  2. How big is the asteroid?
  3. What year did NASA fear it could hit Earth?
  4. What did scientists use to refine their understanding of the asteroid’s orbit?
  5. How close did the asteroid come to Earth when scientists were able to refine its orbit?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Asteroid Risk
Luckily NASA has given the all clear for any asteroid coming too close to earth within the next 100 years, however if it was possible that an asteroid was going to strike in the coming years, what could we do as a global population to try and prepare?

Work with a partner and brainstorm a list of how you could work together with other countries to try and save the Earth.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
What other potential risks does Earth face from Space and other hazards around the globe? List them below and rate each one as impossible,  possible, unlikely or likely.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article?

Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick three nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

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