London: A new asteroid, identified by NASA, could potentially hit
the earth on February 5, 2040, even though it is much smaller than the one
-- nine miles across -- which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years
The UN Action Team on near-Earth objects, which has taken note of the
460-ft asteroid, placed the odds of its hitting the earth at one-in-625,
though that could change nearer the time.
Scientists have not yet been able to work out much more about it than its
size as they have only been able to observe it for half its orbit. But
between 2013 and 2016 they will be able to monitor from the ground and
will make a more detailed assessment.
In 2023 the rock will make a 'keyhole pass' of Earth, which is an area it
passes through on the orbit before it would hit Earth. This will be within
a mere 0.02 astronomical units of our planet, or 1.86 million miles,
according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.
NASA's infrared sky-scans track space objects such as asteroids. A recent
scan with the NeoWISE instruments found that there were 19,000 'mid-sized'
asteroids within 120 million miles of Earth, a newspaper reports.
According to NASA, among the ways of deflecting it are putting a probe
onto the rock and using the extra gravity the craft generates to steer the
asteroid away over millions of light years. Another option would be
sending a probe into it so that the impact has the same effect.
Nuclear weapons have also been discussed, but this would create a shower
of rocks instead of just one.
Mid-sized refers to asteroids in a size range between 330 and 3,300 feet
wide, which could destroy a city-sized area were they to hit Earth.