German Teen Claims 1-In-450 Chance Apophis Will Hit Earth
Don't believe the kid. That's the somewhat-weary message NASA
had this week in regards to a story spreading like wildfire over
the Internet, of a German student who claims his calculations place
the chances of a planet-killing asteroid collision with Earth in
2036 far higher than the space agency has reported.
The story gained traction after the German newspaper Potsdamer
Neuerster Nachrichten reported Tuesday on the findings of student
Nico Marquardt, who in his project for a regional science
competition placed the chances of the asteroid Apophis striking
Earth at one-in-450 -- far greater than NASA's statements of a
1-in-45,000 chance Apophis will hit our planet.
Apart from the potentially catastrophic undertones, of course,
those claims make a great story -- "13-year-old wunderkind
beats space agency at its own game." But NASA adamantly maintains
its figures, not Marquardt's, are the ones to take to the bank.
"Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in
near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no
correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis
impact probability is far higher than the current estimate," NASA
said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown told Agence-France Presse experts at
the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA are certain
their figures are correct, stating Near-Earth Object Program Office
"has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability
(1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in
The agency also say the German newspaper inaccurately reported
NASA told the European Space Agency that Marquardt's figures --
which assume Apophis will collide with an orbiting satellite in
2029, sending the asteroid's trajectory much closer to Earth than
previously calculated -- were actually correct.
"The asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous
satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite
is exceedingly remote," NASA said. "Therefore, consideration of
this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current
impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in
So there. NASA hopes we all feel better.