Is Earth in the cross hairs of a huge asteroid? That is a question that astronomers all over sought to answer upon news in March that an asteroid called 2011 AG5 had a 1 in 625 chance of hitting the Earth on February 5, 2040. Obviously, 1 in 625 odds are not good and the asteroid itself isn’t large enough to cause a mass extinction event (like the one that killed the dinosaurs) but, on the other hand, the fact that scientists can’t yet rule out an impact is making some people very, very nervous.
Well, be nervous no longer as a new study has declared that the asteroid will come no closer to Earth than 550,000 miles in 2040.
Even back in March, when the probability of an impact was first announced, on the 1 to 10 Torino Scale, the threat of impact by 2011 AG5 is rated as a 1, which means that its chances of hitting the Earth are very small and, upon further observations will almost certainly get smaller, possibly even reaching zero, which is exactly what has happened..
The asteroid is about 460 feet across and its competition unknown. For comparison, this is slightly larger than the impactor that caused the Tunguaska Event in 1908, which would be large enough to obliterate a large city but nowhere near massive enough to threaten life on earth as we know it.
The asteroid will make some close passes by Earth in the years between now and 2040. In 2013, it will make a convenient close pass that will allow further observations to be made and orbital data redefined. At this time, scientists will be able to even further recalculate its orbit and, perhaps, learn more about the asteroid’s structure and composition..
Anyone wanting to observe the asteroid is out of luck as it is, despite being a large object, very dim, dim enough to make it a challenge for the scientists who studied in from a Hawaii observatory (and confirmed that it wouldn’t hit Earth) this past October.
Since astronomy is a weather-allowing pursuit, be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you.
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