Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Near Earth Object 2004 MN4 update

The 400m asteroid on a potential collision course with Earth now has been determined to be in an orbit that will miss the planet in April 2029. Images from several months earlier were found in archives and helped to refine the calculations. The probability of a strike (this time) has diminished to zero.

However, the chance of being hit by something big enough to cause widespread damage at some point in the future is a certainty. In fact, On Dec. 22 a smaller object of a few meters diameter was detected AFTER it had passed Earth at about 20,000 miles distance. Only with enough advance notice can we do anything to deflect the intruders. There was much unnecessary destruction from the recent tsunami because of the lack of early warning systems in the Indian Ocean. An impact early warning system is functioning now on a limited budget, but deserves more attention than it has been getting.

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