Add an asterisk to those reports of an asteroid crashing into Earth . . . in about 28 years. A new study confirms a massive space rock previously feared to be headed our way then instead will pass harmlessly by.
Scientists discovered asteroid 2011 AG5 last year, saying there was a 1-in-500 chance the 460-foot-wide celestial object would collide with our own third rock from the sun. But new research shows AG5 asteroid will pass 550,000 miles from the Earth — about twice our distance from the moon.
Research using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, which photographed the asteroid three times in October, was recently released. The new study confirmed other NASA research that solidified theories about the orbit’s harmless path. Earlier conjecture had AG5 on an elliptical path similar to the asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
"While there is general consensus there is only a very small chance that we could be dealing with a real impact scenario for this object, we will still be watchful and ready to take further action if additional observations indicate it is warranted," Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object Observation Program at NASA said in a statement.
NASA has an Asteroid Watch program in Pasadena, Calif. Its astronomers and scientists who regularly stargaze have found nearly 9,000 potentially earth-shattering asteroids, so far, and 95 percent of the largest ones have been identified.
On Dec. 11, however, a newfound asteroid about 120 feet wide zipped between Earth and the moon. The near-Earth asteroid 2012 XE54 came within 140,000 miles of the planet. The next day, the near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis, which is about 3 miles wide, zoomed within 4.3 million miles of Earth.
NASA recently proposed to utilize technology that would lasso and reposition a small flyby asteroid to use as a refueling space station for astronauts making their way to Mars.
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