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Asteroid - a collision course?
by Victor Venson, starff writer

 

Summer 2002 was, for a while, the summer of the asteroid. In June, an asteroid the size of a soccer field missed the Earth by 75,000 miles. The scientists discovered that rock three days after it had missed the planet.

Then, July 5, the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project in New Mexico discovered asteroid 2002 NT7. The first calculations of the asteroid’s trajectory alerted scientists that the 1.2-mile space rock might smack the earth on Feb. 1, 2019. The public announcement got people’s attention. Whether it hit water or land, the impact of asteroid 2002 NT7 would cause a global “Deep Impact/Armageddon” catastrophe.

If on land, massive earthquakes would tumble cities and generate tsunami waves in the earth’s oceans. If in water, tsunami waves of immense height would obliterate anything on the immediately adjacent coastlines and cause serious coastal damage around the world.

Global climate changes would be bitter and painful facts as dust generated from the impact filled the atmosphere, blocking sunlight, reducing global temperatures, and generating a decades-long winter. No wonder the only topic of conversation for several days was asteroid 2002 NT7. Fortunately, after weeks of observations, NASA has almost ruled out the chance of a 2019 collission with the earth.

The latest calculations show that the asteroid will intersect the earth’s orbit at least (only?) 22,000 km. from the planet. This is considered extremely close by cosmic measures, hence the worried scientists.

According to the Torino/Palermo scale, which is used to measure phenomenon from space that can affect Earth in any way, asteroid 2002 NT7 is rated between 0.6 and 1 units – the highest rate any object has ever been given, primarily due to its size.

Asteroid 2002 NT7 orbits the Sun every 837 days, traveling a tilted orbit from near the orbit of Mars to just within the Earth’s orbit. This orbit will bring NT7 on six other potential impact paths through Earth’s orbit – in 2044, 2053, and two times each in 2060 and 2078. The odds of impact, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, are 250 billion to 1.Yet, there is always a chance of uncertainty at this stage, according to Dan Durda of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Although the Torino scale categorized NT7 as “an event worth monitoring,” but not a great concern, there is always a remote risk that the rock will later be determined to be on collision course with Earth, he explained The asteroid will now be under surveillance for 18 more months to completely rule out the chance that it will collide with Earth Feb. 1, 2019.

 

 

 

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