Scientists Warn that Huge Asteroid Could Strike Earth on March 21st
Scientists were today warning of a possible asteroid collision with the Earth. An asteroid around two-thirds of a mile wide (1.2km) cou...
Scientists were today warning of a possible asteroid collision with the Earth.
An asteroid around two-thirds of a mile wide (1.2km) could hit the earth on March 21, 2014 and has been classified as "an event meriting careful monitoring" by astronomers.
The newly-discovered asteroid, known as 2003 QQ47, has a mass of around 2,600 million tons (2,600 billion kg).
Its orbit calculations are currently based on just 51 observations during a seven-day period.
Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University, Belfast, one of the expert team advising the UK NEO (Near Earth Objects) Information Centre, based in Leicester, said: "The NEO will be observable from Earth for the next two months, and astronomers will continue to track it over this period."
The giant rock was first observed on August 24 by Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Program (LINEAR), based in Socorro, New Mexico.
The observations were reported to the Minor Planet Centre in Massachusetts, a centre for all new discoveries of asteroids and comets. The asteroid has been given a classification - known as a "Torino hazard rating" of one - defining it as "an event meriting careful monitoring."
Scientists said it was likely to drop down the scale for hazard as more observations were made.
Kevin Yates, project manager for the UK NEO Information Centre, said: "As additional observations are made over the coming months, and the uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is likely to drop down the Torino scale.
"The NEO Information Centre will continue to monitor the latest results of observations and publish regular updates on our website."
Asteroids such as 2003 QQ47 are chunks of rock left over from the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
Most are kept at a safe distance from Earth in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
But the gravitational influence of giant planets such as Jupiter can nudge asteroids out of these safe orbits and send them plunging into the Earth's neighbourhood.
‘If a 30-metre asteroid were to hit in the wrong place at the wrong time, it could wipe out an entire city,'
Currently there are only around 100 people who tracks asteroids each day to determine their shape and speed.
Nasa wants to increase that number, particularly over Africa and Asia where spottings aren’t being made.
‘Ultimately our goal is to get an infrared telescope that’s away from the Earth,’ he Professor Kessler. ‘We recognise we need to get away from the Earth so that our field of view opens up.’
‘The opportunity as the number of detections increases is for amateur astronomers – our citizen scientists – to help here.’
Citizens science projects such as this are increasingly being used by researchers to help in large-scale projects.
Zooniverse, for example, is one of the leading online platforms for citizen scientists, working on a range of projects including classifying galaxies.
Last month, up one million volunteers signed up to the programme.