Close Call! NASA Downgrades Asteroid Threat

By Rudie Obias | Published

During a NASA workshop, researchers have determined that the asteroid known as 2011 AG5 has a very slim chance of colliding with Earth in 2040. But others have argued that if the asteroid passes through a very critical “keyhole” in 2023, then odds of a global impact would be now increased. Don’t worry, this is a possibility but we shouldn’t be concerned with turning the world into a scene from Deep Impact or Armageddon.

The asteroid 2011 AG5 was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey less than six months ago and since then NASA had assemble a team of scientists and researchers at their Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD to calculate the exact trajectory of the asteroid and the global impact if it does in fact hit Earth. They concluded that 2011 AG5 is approximately 460 feet in size and should be classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). If 2011 AG5 does strike Earth; the damage would be at least a hundred miles wide with a force of 100 megatons. Ouch!

There is a less than 1% likelihood that this asteroid will hit Earth but researcher won’t know exactly until the next crucial point in 2023 when the asteroid will be approximately 1.1-million miles away from us. In 2023, the asteroid is scheduled to pass by a 227-mile-wide region of space called a “keyhole.” If it passes through it, instead of by it, Earth’s gravitational pull could influence its orbital path to impact us on February 5, 2040. The odds of the asteroid passing through this “keyhole” is less than 0.2% but if it does happen it increases Earth’s chances of getting hit from 1% to 10% to 15%.

If 2011 AG5’s orbital path does come Earth’s way then NASA will take action with a kinetic-impactor spacecraft (that’s a great name) that would hit the asteroid with enough mass and at high velocity to change its course. It’s good to know NASA has a fail safe for something like this and we don’t have to resort to the heroics of Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Michael Bay.