Friday, July 30, 2010

Asteroid 1999 RQ36 Won't Hit Earth in 2182: Probably

"Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182 " (July 27, 2010)

"A large asteroid in space that has a remote chance of slamming into the Earth would be most likely hit in 2182, if it crashed into our planet at all, a new study suggests.

"The asteroid, called 1999 RQ36, has about a 1-in-1,000 chance of actually hitting the Earth, but half of that risk corresponds to potential impacts in the year 2182, said study co-author MarĂ­a Eugenia Sansaturio of the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain.

"Sansaturio and her colleagues used mathematical models to determine the risk of asteroid 1999 RQ36 impacting the Earth through the year 2200. They found two potential opportunities for the asteroid to hit Earth in 2182...."

The key phrase here is "remote chance." The odds are that 1999 RQ36 will go past Earth in 2182, be observed and discussed by astronomers - and anybody else who shows an interest in the quarter-mile-wide chunk of rock.

Or, maybe, it will hit Earth. I'll be long gone by then: but just the same I'd rather that folks living then not experience an asteroid impact.

We're not entirely helpless. We've had at least some of the technology needed to deflect asteroids for years. What's missing is a clear process for using what we've got. We're close, though.

A key, as outlined in the article, is to make plans and act early. Before tons of cosmic leftovers are a few years away from running into our planet.

Which makes the sort of research that's described rather important.

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