Earth set for asteroid ‘close call’

It's called 2006 QV89. We have a date with it on September 9. Lets hope we don't connect.

The 40m asteroid has had its course and speed tracked. The resulting odds of it hitting Earth come back as 7000-1.

That represents a "non-zero impact probability".

Which means that our knowledge of its trajectory has enough margin for error to encompass a possible - if improbable - collision.

The European Space Agency has updated its "Space Situational Awareness" page to detail what we know about 2006 QV89.

It isn't a lot.

It's estimated to be about 40m big. And it seems to be travelling at about 12.3 meters per second. At that size, it's about double that which caused the Chelyabinsk explosion over Russia, injuring 1500 people.

"In most cases, the size presented in the table is estimated indirectly from the absolute magnitude, and flagged with an asterisk to denote its large uncertainty," the ESA's page warns. "When a better measurement is available in the literature, it replaces the estimated value."

The highest probability puts the asteroid as passing Earth at some 6.8 million kilometres distance - that's many times further out than the Moon.

Despite sounding ominous, it's nowhere near as bad as the ESA's "Special Risks List".

That warns us of large asteroids with a more likely chance of hitting us.

The only good news … calculations suggest this won't happen for at least another 100 years.

But NASA, the ESA and other agencies are busily preparing to counter an unexpected threat.

In a recent simulation, an attempt to protect the Earth from an incoming killer asteroid resulted in the city of New York being vaporised.

But the space agencies will give it another go in a few years time. This time they'll try to save Europe.



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