Scientists say that the 2011 AG5 asteroid, which would have created an impact thousands of times stronger than the atomic bomb, will not be on a collision course with the Earth after all. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Well, Earth has one less thing to worry about in 28 years.
According to NASA on Friday--ironically enough, on the Mayan date where the world was supposed to come to an end--an asteroid about 140 meters long, or 460 feet, will not be on a collision course with Earth after all.
Scientists say that if the asteroid, known as 2011 AG5, would have collided with our planet, it would have released an energy equaling that of 100 megatons of energy--a few thousands times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped in Japan in 1945.
NASA has been tracking the asteroid with the aid of astronomers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who observed the asteroid for several days in October utilizing the Gemini North telescope.
"An analysis of the new data conducted by NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shows that the risk of collision in 2040 has been eliminated," NASA told CNN Friday.
According to those results, scientists say the asteroid will miss the Earth by a mark of about 890,000 kilometers, or 553,000 miles.
David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, told CNN that because the asteroid was so close to the sun, astronomers could only observe the massive space rock when it was dark--which led to only a 30-minute window for astronomers to observe the asteroid before it got too bright.
"The second effect is the turbulence of the atmosphere makes things fainter," Tholen said. "We had to keep trying over and over until we got one of those nights when the atmosphere was calm."
On an upside, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif, where the observations were analyzed, said Friday that the experience gained by studying the asteroid and doing contingency deflection analysis are a sign that astronomers are well poised to detect and predict when asteroids will pose a potential threat to Earth down the road.