Angelo Paratico's article "Comet heading straight for earth - don't panic" (SCMP today) is alarmist, sensationalist and bad science.

Apophis debunked
11 March 2012

Angelo Paratico's article Comet heading straight for earth - don't panic, appearing in the "Science and Technology" page of SCMP today is alarmist, sensationalist and bad science. The article is subtitled "If scientist's (sic) can't deflect Apophis, there'll be a nasty bump around April 2036, rather as Arthur C Clarke imagined, but most of us should escape unscathed".

First, Apophis is an asteroid, not a comet.

Second, Mr Paratico writes "if everything goes to plan [in 2029] it should pass through..the keyhole". A gravitational keyhole is a very small region in the space around a planet, different for each asteroid and depending on its trajectory, which, if the asteroid passes through it, would alter the asteroid's trajectory so as to collide with the planet in a future orbit which, in the case of Apophis, would be 2036. However, as of 7-Oct-2009, the probability of an impact by Apophis in 2036 was estimated by NASA at 1 in 250,000. In other words, there is a 99.9996% probability that Apophis will not go through the keyhole in 2029 and will not hit our planet in 2036.

So now you can get back to worrying about more likely threats to the planet, such as thermonuclear war or anthropogenic global warming. Mr Paratico is Vice President of Candiani Denim (Far East) Ltd, and is obviously keen on science fiction.

©, 2012

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