The former Goa’uld System Lord defeated time and again by SG-1 may be coming back for revenge in 2036. Not the actual System Lord, of course, but the asteroid named for the fictional character Apophis (by the Stargate fan who discovered it).
There were headlines in 2009 that the asteroid could strike the Earth in 2029 (a greater than 2 percent chance), which scientists have largely discounted after further study. This week Russian scientists at St. Petersburg State University suggest that the asteroid could strike our world in 2036 — April 13, to be exact — if it passes through a tiny “keyhole” area of space that would gravitationally alter its trajectory.
NASA scientists, however, remain cautiously skeptical. “Technically, they’re correct, there is a chance in 2036 [that Apophis will hit Earth],” Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, told Life’s Little Mysteries. But that chance is just 1 in 250,000.
“The situation is that in 2029, April 13, [Apophis] flies very close to the Earth, within five Earth radii,” Yeomans said. “So that will be quite an event, but we’ve already ruled out the possibility of it hitting at that time. On the other hand, if it goes through what we call a keyhole during that close Earth approach … then it will indeed be perturbed just right so that it will come back and smack Earth on April 13, 2036.”
Apophis is currently a bit larger than two football fields, but may break up into smaller pieces that would pose less of a threat.
The asteroid will make a relatively close pass by Earth in late 2012 and early 2013, which will allow astronomers to observe it more closely and fine-tune their predictions.