(Sen) - NASA is seeking to allay fears that a sizeable asteroid will collide with the Earth in 2040. A special international workshop attended by scientists and engineers has concluded that the chance of an impact is only one in 500.
But astronomers will make detailed observations with giant telescopes and Hubble in space over the next two years and discussions have also centred on how the asteroid might be deflected if it is confirmed to be a threat.
The possibility of a collision was raised following the discovery of asteroid 2011 AG5 by an automatic camera on Mt Lemmon, Arizona, that is part of the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey, on January 8 last year.
The space rock was estimated to be about 140 metres wide and would produce an explosion with the force of 11 megatons of energy if it should hit the Earth’s southern hemisphere on its approach on February 5 2040.
But whether or not an impact occurs depends on what happens 17 years earlier when the asteroid makes a close flyby of Earth on February 3, 2023.
If it should pass through what is termed a 365 km wide “keyhole” 1.8 million km from the Earth on that date, then an impact in 2040 will be a real possibility.