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NASA downgrades threat of large asteroid

Wed, 10/07/2009 - 12:44pm

(AP) -- Earth can breathe a sigh of relief.

NASA on Wednesday downgraded the odds of an 885-foot asteroid striking the planet in 2036.

Scientists initially believed there was a 1-in-45,000 chance that Apophis could hit the planet on April 13, 2036. But the threat was lowered to a 1-in-250,000 chance after researchers recalculated the asteroid's path.

"It wasn't anything to worry about before. Now it's even less so," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Chesley and his colleagues refined the asteroid's orbit after an astronomer in Hawaii analyzed previously unreleased images that gave scientists a better idea of Apophis' position.

Earth got a scare in 2004 when initial measurements suggested the newly discovered Apophis seemed to have a chance of hitting the planet in 2029. Further observations ruled out any possibility of an impact.

Scientists are tracking Apophis, which is slated to come within 18,300 miles above Earth's surface in 2029.

 

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