13-year-old German boy Nico Marquardt has determined that the Apophis asteroid is 100 times as dangerous as NASA calculated.
Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.
NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.
The schoolboy took into consideration the risk of Apophis running into one or more of the 40,000 satellites orbiting Earth during its path close to the planet on April 13 2029.
Those satellites travel at 3.07 kilometres a second (1.9 miles), at up to 35,880 kilometres above earth -- and the Apophis asteroid will pass by earth at a distance of 32,500 kilometres.
If the asteroid strikes a satellite in 2029, that will change its trajectory making it hit earth on its next orbit in 2036.
Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.
If we don't have the technology to divert an asteroid within 20 years, we deserve what we get. I can't wait to get my hands on all that iridium!
The AFP story claimed NASA had told the European Space Agency that the boy's calculations were correct. But Yeomans's statement on the NASA website says this is not true.
"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," it says.
Chesley points out that NASA's calculations have been independently confirmed by a group of scientists at the University of Pisa, who report their results on a website called NeoDys. The NeoDys entry on Apophis puts its impact risk at 0.00207%, or about 1 in 48,000.