Big asteroid no longer threat to the planet

By Seth Borenstein ,AP

WASHINGTON — U.S. astronomers say a big asteroid is no longer even a remote threat to smash into Earth in about 20 years.

They got a much better look at the asteroid when it whizzed by Earth on Wednesday. They recalculated, determining it was not on path to hit Earth on April 13, 2036 as once feared.

At more than 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide, the rock could do significant damage but not cause worldwide extinctions.

About nine years ago, when astronomers first saw the asteroid, they thought there was a 2.7-percent chance that Apophis would smack into the planet. Later, they lowered the chances. The asteroid is named after an evil Egyptian mythical serpent.

Donald Yeomans, who manages NASA’s asteroid-tracking office, said now the asteroid will not get closer than 19,400 miles (31,220 kilometers).