Astronomers say a 460-foot asteroid discovered last year is the big object with the best chance of smashing into Earth in the nearish future, Discovery News reported. Its orbit will bring it somewhere near Earth in 2040, and NASA's Near Earth Object Program calculates the chance of impact is 1 in 165.
The asteroid, known as 2011 AG5, was even discussed at recent meeting in Vienna of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, ABC News reported. The committee members decided mankind does not yet have enough information about its path to start panicking.
"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's Solar System Missions Division in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, said, according to Discovery News.
Since scientists only observed the asteroid for nine months in 2011, the impact probability could change after further observation, Donald Yoemans, who heads the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Space.com.
"Fortunately, this object will be observable from the ground in the 2013-2016 interval," Yeomans told Space.com. In the very unlikely event that its impact probability did not significantly decrease, "there would be time to mount a deflection mission to alter its course,” Yeomans said.
What kind of deflection mission? Oh, something like nudging the asteroid into a different orbit with explosive rockets, according to ABC News.
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