Friday, June 30, 2006

asteroid encounter: earth target in 'cosmic shooting gallery'

A large asteroid is hurtling towards earth, and will pass us on Monday (hopefully) - wizzing past Earth only slightly further away than the moon!


Astronomers are currently trying to get a better bearing on the rock (called 2004 XP14) to find out exactly how big it is, but it is not expected to hit earth.

According to the authorative '':

"So far in 2006, we have already had two asteroids approach closer than Hermes did in 1937. But these two asteroids were estimated to be no larger than about 66-feet/20-meters across. 2004 XP14 on the other hand, is probably about 30 times larger, though for now astronomers can only say that it's between a quarter-mile and a half-mile wide.

And as close as 2004 XP14 will come, another object on the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid docket is destined to pass much closer to Earth and possibly could pose a threat to our planet. On April 13, 2029, the asteroid 99942 Apophis is expected to pass a mere 18,600 miles (30,000 km.) above Earth’s surface.

While there is no chance that a collision will occur, there are some, like former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, who have voiced concerns that after the scarily close 2029 approach that Apophis’ orbit could end up in resonance with Earth’s orbit. In fact, if Apophis were to pass through a narrow “gravitational keyhole” there would be a small possibility of a collision in 2036 or 2069. Right now, however, the probability of such an impact is placed at 1-in-28,000."


Does all this explain why the Americans are desperate to get the Space Shuttle off the ground (take off planned for tomorrow) even though many experts think it is still not safe? Answer: No it does not.

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