That was close! NASA says an asteroid will miss Earth by 553,000 miles in 2040

That's close! NASA says an asteroid will miss Earth by 553,000 miles in 2040

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UPDATED:

21:10 GMT, 22 December 2012

Not only did Earth survive the Mayan doomsday prophecy but now it appears we've dodged an asteroid as well. Somebody up there likes us.

NASA has revealed that an asteroid feared to be on a collision course with the planet in 2040 now poses no threat at all.

'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,' NASA declared Friday.

asteroid

Safe: New research shows an asteroid heading in our direction will actually miss the planet in 2040 rather than collide with Earth

asteroid

Dangerous: Had the asteroid hit Earth the resulting blast would have been thousands of times that of an atomic bomb

The asteroid is
140 meters (460 feet) in diameter, and will get no closer to Earth than
890,000 kilometers (553,000 miles), more than twice the distance to
the moon.

Previously uncertainties about the orbit of the asteroid, designated 2011 AG5, allowed for less than a 1 per cent chance it would strike the earth in February 2040.

To better understand the odds, NASA recruited astronomers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa to observe the asteroid over several days in October.

Hawaii's observations, done using a Gemini 8-meter telescope, reduce the
orbit uncertainties by more than a factor of 60.

So scientists can say for certain our planet is not among the the asteroid's possible future paths.

Had it struck the earth the impact would've likely released 100 megatons of energy, a blast several thousand times
more powerful than an atomic bomb.

Observing the asteroid was difficult because of its proximity to the sun, said David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.

asteroid

Watched: Hawaiian researches studied the asteroid's rotation for days this summer

There was only 30 minutes of time when the light was correct to see the asteroid.

Also, because
they were looking at the it low in the sky, they were viewing it
through more atmosphere, which can make the asteroid fainter.

'The second effect is
the turbulence of the atmosphere makes things fainter,' Tholen said. 'We
had to keep trying over and over until we got one of those nights when
the atmosphere was calm.'

And because the asteroid was elongated its brightness changes as it rotates.

'This object was
changing its brightness by a factor of three or four — it was just
enormously variable,' Tholen said. 'It was hit and miss depending on
which night you observed it.'