Rumors abound on the internet proclaiming asteroids and comets are hurtling towards earth, some going so far as to announce, with great certainty, that these approaching balls of ice and rock will usher in the last days of humanity on Earth, perhaps as soon as 2012.
The thing about rumors though is that they tend to be just that, unfounded musings of individuals with little or no training to make such assessments.
Occasionally though there are objects that may pass close enough to Earth to pose a threat, or at least provide some serious atmospheric fireworks.
One such object, a comet dubbed Elenin (known among the scientific community as C/2010 X1), has been found to be on its way to the inner realm of the solar system. Of course rumors began to swirl that this comet could pose a threat to Earth in 2011.
NASA is now saying that while Elenin will indeed pass by Earth this October, the closest it will get is about 22 million miles on the 16th of that month. For perspective, that's more than 88 times farther than the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Not exactly close.
There has been some recent activity were asteroids were passing within the orbit of our only natural satellite, but those objects were small, about the size of a football stadium or less (usually much less). Comet Elenin, on the other hand is about two or three miles in diameter.
Alas there is nothing to worry about concerning comet Elenin, but if you have a telescope you will have an interesting object to look at in the middle of October.
Image Credit: NASA