Asteroid could hit Earth in 2040
Mon, 18 Jun 2012 2:25p.m.
By 3 News online staff
An asteroid spotted last year on a potential collision course with Earth in 2040 has less than a 1 percent chance of hitting our planet, new research shows.
2011 AG5, spotted in January last year, is a rock 140m across, and if it hit the Earth, would devastate an area 160km wide.
Gathering data on the asteroid has been difficult, as it is currently orbiting on the opposite side of the Sun. In coming years when it becomes easier to track, astronomers believe they will be able to say whether or not it will hit the Earth with more certainty.
"With more data points, the knowledge of the potential positions of the asteroid improves and the swath becomes smaller, typically eliminating the risk of an impact," says NASA's Don Yeomans.
The most important measurements will come in 2023, when 2011 AG5 could pass through what's known as a 'keyhole' in space – a region where the asteroid could be influenced by Earth's gravitational pull, putting it on a collision course for 2040.
"Given our current understanding of this asteroid's orbit, there is only a very remote chance of this keyhole passage even occurring," says NASA's Lindley Johnson.
Scientists believe if the keyhole passage does occur, they would have time to work out how to deflect it.
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