Good news for planet Earth this year as the world mercifully didn’t come to end with the expiration of the Mayan calendar – better news from NASA in that we’ve a few more decades to go at least.
As the world continues to breathe a collective sigh of relief following the un-fulfillment of a long-feared doomsday prophecy, the space agency has now added to the festivities with news that an asteroid with the potential to hit Earth in the near future is no longer a threat.
Previously, the asteroid carrying the catchy handle of 2011 AG5 was given a 1% chance rating by NASA that it would collide with the Earth during early 2040. Such a risk is considered dangerously high given the potential consequences of such an impact, therefore a team of astronomers was given the task of monitoring the rock over a period of time to better understand its behavior.
“An analysis of the new data conducted by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shows that the risk of collision in 2040 has been eliminated,” according to the joyful NASA declaration this week.
Stationed in Hawaii and using an eight-meter telescope to carry out the study, the astronomers found that the orbit uncertainties of the asteroid were considerably lower than previously thought, making an impact with the Earth impossible as the planet is entirely out of the rock’s range.
Measuring in at about 460 feet across, 2011 AG5 will pass no closer to the Earth than double the distance from here to the moon, or a good 553,000 miles.
Had the worst case scenario come about however and the impact taken place in February 2040, the power of the collision had been estimated at around 100 megatons, which would see damage several thousand times that of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.
The mission to track the behavior of the asteroid was heralded as a rather difficult task by the team behind the project, as its proximity to the sun made it impossible to view during most hours of the day. In fact, a window of just half an hour was available each day for the asteroid to be viewed, before it became too bright to see.