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Newly discovered asteroid has little chance of hitting Earth: experts

10-19-2013 08:05 BJT

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- U.S. experts warned on Friday against any panic over newly discovered asteroid 2013 TV135, saying that the chance of an impact in the year of 2032 is extremely slim and could probably be "ruled out entirely" in the future.

The space rock was discovered on Oct. 8, 2013 by astronomers working at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. It made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 16, when it came within about 6.7 million kilometers, and could be back in Earth's neighborhood in 2032. At least for the moment, experts cannot eliminate the risk of an impact then.

"The odds of an impact in 2032, as calculated today after 9 days of observing 2013 TV135, are now 1-in-48,000, so a little higher than two days ago," Jose Luis Galache, an astronomer with the U.S.-based Minor Planet Center, a branch of the International Astronomical Union, told Xinhua.

"However, I would like to stress that the orbit we have computed after only 9 days of observations is very imprecise, so we can't draw any conclusions yet from these numbers," Galache said.

Earlier, U.S. space agency NASA determined the impact probability as being at only one in 63,000. "As observations continue, the impact probability will be updated and there is a 99. 998 percent chance that the possibility of impact will be ruled out," NASA spokesman David Agle said.

Even if it did hit, it doesn't mean the end for humans. "2013 TV135 is estimated to be about 400 meters in diameter. While the impact of such an object would be destructive over a large region, it would not rise to the level of a global disaster," Agle told Xinhua.

Galache, however, said the asteroid's size is still not precisely known. He estimated that it's between 300 and 700 meters wide.

"At this size range, an impact with Earth would be destructive on subcontinental level, but disastrous for the area affected nonetheless. The crater left by the impact would be 5 to 15 km wide, with trees and buildings being destroyed by the heat and shock wave up to tens of kilometers away from the impact site. If the asteroid were to hit an ocean, it would create a tsunami with a wave height of several tens of meters," Galache said.

"We will continue to monitor the asteroid until we become certain the it will not impact, which is the most likely scenario. If at any moment we determine that there will be an impact, or the impact risk is very high, then astronomers and engineers would come together to find the best way to move this asteroid. Many different methods have been proposed to move asteroids from their orbits, and we would pick the best one for this object," he added.

NASA believed that with more observations of the newly discovered asteroid, the initial orbit calculations will be improved and the most likely result will be a dramatic reduction, or complete elimination, of any risk of Earth impact.

"This is a relatively new discovery," Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "This is a relatively new discovery. With more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future."

Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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