What was first reported to be the "doomsday asteroid" when it was first discovered in 2004, 99942 Apophis will fly by Earth on Jan. 9. Scientists have discovered that the asteroid is 20 percent larger than first thought.
Apep, or Apophis, was an evil god in ancient Egyptian religion. He was the veneration of darkness and chaos and the adversary of light and truth.
Nearly a decade ago, a study found that 99942 Apophis had a 2.7 percent chance of hitting Earth when it passes within 22,364 miles (36,000 kilometers) of Earth in April of 2029 and then again in 2036. It was later concluded that the asteroid has no real percentage of striking our planet, but space officials over at NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are still tracking the object.
“Alone among all these near-Earth asteroids that have passed our way in recent years, Apophis has generated the most concern worldwide because of its extremely close approach in 2029 and [chances of a] potential impact, albeit small, in 2036,” said Patrick Paolucci, president of Slooh, in a statement.
On Wednesday, ESA officials announced that the asteroid is actually approximately 1,066 feet (325 meters) wide rather than the initial estimate of 885 feet (270 meters). This accounts to the asteroid being 20 percent larger than previously assessed.
“The 20 percent increase in diameter translates into a 75 percent increase in our estimates of the asteroid's volume or mass,” said study leader Thomas Müller of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany in a statement.
NASA has ranked Apophis No. 4 on its Torino Impact Hazard Scale, the highest level reached on the sale since its establishment. The highest level is No. 10 “a collision is certain, capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean. Such events occur on average once per 100,000 years, or less often.”
At the present time, Apophis has a one in 233,000 (99.99957 percent) chance of striking Earth in the year 2036.
Earthlings can watch Apophis make its fly-by Jan. 9 using the Slooh Space Camera website at 7 p.m. EST.