Nasa has identified a new asteroid threat that could potentially impact Earth on February 5th 2040.
Asteroid 2011 AG5 has a one-in-625 chance of hitting us - in an area the size of the universe, that's not good odds.
This rock's already concerning the UN Action Team on near-Earth objects (did you even know such a group existed??!!), which is discussing ways to divert it. One option is to use a nuclear weapon against the asteroid, as in the Bruce Willis film Armageddon...but this would create a shower of rocks instead of just one. NASA is also talking about putting a probe onto the rock and using the extra gravity the craft generates to steer the asteroid away. Another option would be slamming a probe into it so the impact would have the same effect.
If the 460ft 2011 AG5 hits a major city it would cause millions of deaths, although mankind would live through it. In comparison, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65m years ago was nine miles wide!
Scientists have not been able to work out much more than its size, as they've only been able to view it for half its orbit. Between 2013 and 2016 they'll be able to make a more detailed assessment. In 2023 the rock will make a 'keyhole pass' of Earth (on the orbit before it might hit us). NASA says this will be about 1.86 million miles from us.
Much of the world’s recent asteroid attention has been on the Aphophis asteroid, which is the size of two and a half football fields and predicted to pass real close in 2036: within 18,300 miles and be visible from most of Europe, Africa and Asia.
There're approx.19,000 such 'mid-sized' asteroids within 120 million miles of Earth ('mid-sized' = asteroids between 330ft and 3,300ft wide, which could destroy a city-sized area if they hit). Get the impression we're living on borrowed time?
So, put February 5th 2040 in your diary now. Just a shame ol' doomsayer Harold Camping won't be around to see the end...!
Or Bruce Willis to save us!