SPACE: "'Lost' asteroid could hit Earth"

From: Mark Plus (
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 18:30:11 MDT


'Lost' asteroid could hit Earth

by Geraint Smith, Science Correspondent
At least one potentially dangerous asteroid is being discovered every night
and the rate is increasing rapidly.

More than 300 asteroids with orbits that cross Earth's were found last year,
and this year the discoveries are coming faster, Dr Duncan Steel of the
University of Salford will tell the National Astronomy Meeting in Cambridge
later this week.

However, even more worrying may be one that has gone missing.

"One, in particular, we need to find. It was seen for only 10 days in 1998,
and it looked as though it might be on a potential collision course within
the next 30 years.

"However, it was not seen for long enough to calculate the orbit to know for

The object, known as 1998 OX 4, is about half a mile across, he said. "If it
hit San Francisco, California would cease to exist. If it hit London, much
of England would cease to exist."

The object that killed the dinosaurs was between five and 10 miles in size,
but just 93 years ago an asteroid only 60 or 70 yards across blew up in the
atmosphere above Siberia, producing a blast which, had it had Marble Arch as
its centre, would have flattened all of London out to the M25.

"The chance of that occurring is small, but the consequences are so
phenomenal that it is a hazard we must take seriously," Dr Steel said.

Dr Steel is one of six foreign scientists on Nasa's Spaceguard Committee,
which made recommendations to the US Congress on how to deal with "Near
Earth Objects".

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