February 29, 2012
400-Plus Foot Asteroid Could Hit Earth In 2040
NASA officials have identified a large asteroid that is currently on course to hit Earth in approximately three decades time, leading experts to begin discussing possible ways to change its course, various media outlets reported on Tuesday.
The asteroid is 460 feet wide and could hit our planet on February 5, 2040, Rob Waugh of the Daily Mail wrote on Tuesday. Scientists believe there is a one in 625 chance that it will hit Earth.
According to UPI reports, scientists at the 49th meeting of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna said that they would be closely following the asteroid identified as 2011 AG5.
The asteroid was discovered last January, and researchers at the session said that the odds of an impact are high enough that they should begin working on possible ways to deflect it.
"2011 AG5 is the object which currently has the highest chance of impacting the Earth “¦ in 2040. However, we have only observed it for about half an orbit, thus the confidence in these calculations is still not very high," Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency (ESA) Solar System Missions Division told SPACE.com, according to the UPI report.
"We thus concluded that it not necessarily can be called a 'real' threat," he added. "To do that, ideally, we should have at least one, if not two, full orbits observed."
Members of the UN Action Team on Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are hoping to learn more about the asteroid's course between 2013 and 2016, when they will be able to monitor it from the ground, said Telegraph reporter Rosa Prince.
Despite the fact that they haven't been able to learn a whole lot about 2011 AG5, they are nonetheless considering various ways to combat the potential threat, including the use of nuclear weapons to break it into smaller, less threatening rocks or sending a probe to the asteroid to alter its course.
Waugh claims that the asteroid -- one of approximately 19,000 mid-sized ones within 120 million miles of Earth, according to NASA -- "has the potential to wipe out millions of lives if it landed on a city," but notes that it is "far smaller than the nine mile wide asteroid which is believed to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago."
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