An Update on Threats from Heaven: Dangers to Earth from Solar System Debris

ON January 28, 2000, the University of Arizona’s Spacewatch Project Team discovered an asteroid with the potential to crash into Earth. The object, 2000 BF19, is roughly half a mile in diameter, sufficiently large to cause significant ecological damage and the death of hundreds of millions of humans.

      Astronomers were able to track the asteroid for one week. By February 4, it had moved sufficiently far from Earth to render it invisible to telescopes. In 2022, 2000 BF19 will pass close to our planet. Initially, scientists crudely estimated that that there was a chance of one in a million that it would stike Earth, but the latest information suggests that the asteroid will get no closer than 3.5 million miles. In 2011, the asteroid will enter Earth's region of the solar system again giving astronomers the opportunity to more accurately determine its orbit. The asteroid goes around the Sun once every 11 years.

      During the last two years, astronomers have uncovered five earth crossing objects with the potential to collide with Earth. There is a small community of scientists devoted to cataloging earth crossing objects and their orbits. Collisions with Earth do on rare occasions occur. A six mile wide asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and countless other species.

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