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29 June 2011 :: 10:06:57 am 55583

2011 MD Misses Earth : Asteroid hurtles within 7,600 miles of Earth

Asteroid hurtles within 7,600 miles of Earth... three-and-a-half hours later than predicted by scientists who first thought it was a piece of space junk
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An asteroid as large as a small house soared within 7,500miles of Earth yesterday, passing harmlessly over the Atlantic Ocean.The space rock – called 2011 MD – made a hairpin turn around our planet at 6.14 pm GMT, three-and-a-half hours after it had been predicted to whizz by.Red-faced astronomers only discovered the asteroid last week – until then, they thought the small rock was a piece of space junk.

Such late notice could prove catastrophic in the event of an asteroid actually on target to collide with Earth. Indeed, many would question whether the evacuation of a whole region of the planet could take place within a four-day timespan, or if the authorities would even alert the public to the danger.Measuring up to 82ft wide, 2011 MD followed the same near-Earth path that scientists had earlier predicted, a Nasa spokesman said.Its nearest approach to Earth, about 7,500 miles, was 30 times farther away than the International Space Station, which orbits the planet at a distance of 250miles.

On a more celestial scale, the asteroid’s closest distance to Earth was just 3 per cent of the 250,000 miles separating Earth from the moon.Asteroids of this size typically brush by Earth every six years.However, earlier this year, a smaller one came even closer to our planet, passing within 3,500miles.Even if 2011 MD had aimed straight for us, it would have burned up in the atmosphere and not caused any damage on the ground.

Don Yeomans, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said: ‘We’re just waking up to the fact that mother nature has been shooting these things across the bow for millennia.Objects bigger than two-thirds of a mile are major killers and hit Earth every several hundred thousand years. Scientists believe it was a six-mile-wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs65 million years ago.Scientists frequently monitor these potential threats to get better data on their paths and likelihood of hitting Earth.Over the years, Nasa has identified and tracked 8,110 near-Earth objects – comets or asteroids – that are bigger than several feet across. Of those, 1,237 are considered ‘potentially hazardous asteroids’.Though scientists, engineers and former astronauts have pondered ways to protect Earth from a catastrophic collision with an asteroid, there is no firm plan like something out of the Hollywood movie Deep Impact.

In the video below, you can follow the journey asteroid 2011 MD was predicted to make as it travelled across the sky.The footage provides a fascinating glimpse of how asteroids travel through the universe.In total the video shows the rock’s 15-hour close encounter with Earth at greatly increased speed.Staring at 1.10 in the clip, Earth appears to directly in the asteroid’s flight path as it zooms through the sky.But the rock then flies towards the South Pole, travelling high above Antarctica and then the tip of South America before continuing on its journey across the universe.

Report by : Daily Mail

Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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