Asteroid Could Threaten Earth

Deflection mission may be needed to keep 2011 AG5 away
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2012 1:02 AM CST
The asteroid's orbit takes it between Earth and Mars.   (NASA)
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(Newser) – Astronomers are keeping their eyes on an asteroid with the potential to make life very uncomfortable for a lot of Earthlings 28 years from now. The near-Earth asteroid 2011 AG5, a chunk of rock roughly 460 feet wide, will be close to our planet in 2040, and scientists believe there is a 1 in 625 chance that Earth's gravitational pull could put it on course to crash into us on February 5 of that year.

For the asteroid's orbit to be perturbed by gravity, it would need to pass through a small "keyhole" region in space in the year 2023. If observations over the next year or two find the asteroid headed straight for the keyhole, a deflection mission will be planned. Hopefully, it will be a "straightforward task to alter the asteroid’s trajectory enough to miss the keyhole," the head of NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program tells Space.com (Read more asteroid stories.)

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