Less than a month after the asteroid Toutatis popped in for a visit, Earth is going to get another flyby from a large asteroid. But rest easy; the space rock Apophis, named for the Egyptian demon Apep, enemy of the sun god Ra, won’t be striking us this time.
There is, however, a tiny chance – a very, very tiny chance -- that we might not be so lucky in 2036, which is why astronomers are especially keen to get a good view of Apophis this year. Currently, NASA estimates the probability of Apophis striking the Earth in April 2036 to be about 1 in 233,000.
In 2013, Apophis will come within a tenth of an astronomical unit – nearly 9,000,000 miles – of earth. The asteroid is about three football fields wide.
When Apophis was discovered in 2004, scientists briefly estimated that there was a 2.7 percent chance it would hit us in 2029. Revised calculations show that Apophis is likely to pass by that year, but will still give us a close shave, passing about 30,000 kilometers (18,600 miles) overhead – closer than the Moon.
Starting at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, there will be live coverage of Apophis’ fly-by, courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera.