Amongst Norwegian calm, the United Nations Action Team on near-Earth objects has begun investigating what to do about a possible asteroid collision with the planet.
NASA’s newly identified 2011 AG5 has a predicted 1 in 625 chance of hitting the Earth. The Apophis asteroid, believed to make a close pass in 2036, has been the subject of worldwide focus until now.
However, the approximately 460 foot wide (about 140 metres) AG5 is expected to make a ‘keyhole pass’ – an area of space it travels on orbit prior to collision – in 2023 by 1.83 million miles (0.02 astronomical units). A potential impact on 05th February 2040 would create severe harm.
Scientists are now discussing various options to try to avert the potential collision. According to the Daily Mail, these include steering the rock away using extra gravity generated by a probe put on it, or creating an impact using the craft.
It is thought nuclear weapons are not an option because they would split the asteroid into a shower of rocks.
Professor Kaare Aksnes at the University of Oslo’s Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics tells NRK, “An object of that size with a speed of several kilometres per second will wipe out a large city if it hit, but it’s unlikely that it will smash into a city, though.”
“It’s more probably it will plunge into the sea, creating a formidable tsunami that may cause major damage. Landing in the sea is more likely, should it do that, as water covers two-thirds of the Earth.”
Saying he is “overwhelmingly calm” about the risk, the professor declares, “Hopefully, the next couple of years will show its trajectory will miss the critical area, which is most likely.”
Researchers have only been able to work out few details about 2011 AG5’s size for now as they can only see half its orbit.
They will be able to study the asteroid closer from the ground between 2013 and 2016 to make more of a detailed assessment.