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New Asteroid Threat to Earth

Impact Potential in 2014 - Updated; No Threat

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Asteroid Gaspra

Asteroid Gaspra

NASA
Although scientists have basically cleared us from any danger from asteroid 2002 NT7, which originally had been reported as an impact hazard for the year 2019, a newer space rock has been spotted, which may pose a threat even sooner.

At around 1.2 km in width, 2003 QQ47 is substantially smaller than 2002 NT7 (2km), but has been called "an event meriting careful monitoring" by astronomers. If an impact does occur, it could be on March 21, 2014.

Discovered on August 24, 2003, by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project (an MIT Lincoln Laboratory program funded by the United States Air Force and NASA) in New Mexico, 2003 QQ47 has been classified as a 1 on the Torino scale of impact hazards. Scientists are urging calm, however, saying the odds of a catastrophic collision are only around 1 in 909,000.

The orbit of this asteroid has been calculated on only 51 observations during a seven-day period and require further observations to determine if any danger does exist. It will be monitored closely over the next two months. Astronomers expect the risk of impact to decrease significantly as more data is gathered.

If it does strike Earth, the impact could have the effect of over 20 million Hiroshima style atomic bombs. As Billy Bob Thornton says in Armageddon, “It's what we call a Global Killer....the end of mankind. Half the world will be incinerated by the heat blast.....the rest will freeze to death in a nuclear winter. Basically, the worst part of the Bible!”

Asteroids are rocks and debris which are the leftovers of the construction of our solar system nearly 5 billions years ago. Most are in a belt, which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. However, the gravitational influence of the gas giant planets, like Jupiter, or an impact by a comet can knock these large rocks out of their safe orbit.

Needless to say, we will be monitoring this situation very closely.

Update:

Once again, the planet can breathe a sigh of relief. After making further observations of asteroid 2003 QQ47, astronomers now say there is no threat from this rock. It has been downgraded to a zero (0) on the Torin scale, which says, "The likelihood of a collision is zero, or well below the chance that a random object of the same size will strike the Earth within the next few decades. This designation also applies to any small object that, in the event of a collision, is unlikely to reach the Earth's surface intact."

While this particular asteroid appears to not be a threat to Earth at this time, the Near Earth Object Program and other agencies continue to monitor space for other threats. After all, it is a big universe, and there are a lot of asteroids and comets out there.

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