This new revelation has many people concerned, and scientists are already studying and discussing methods of deflecting the rock.
The asteroid, known as Asteroid 2011 AG5, was discovered in January of 2011 by Mount Lemmon Survey astronomers in Tucson, Ariz. So far, astronomers have studied the asteroid enough to gauge its general size and rough orbit, but nothing else. The actual composition and mass of the space rock is still a mystery.
Furthermore, astronomers have only been tracking the asteroid for half an orbit and are still unsure of its exact path through the cosmos. Nevertheless, current theories have some scientists slightly nervous.
Theories aside, the fact is that it is too early to actually confirm that the asteroid will hit Earth. It seems as though the rough odds on asteroid 2011 AG5 hitting earth is about 1 in 625.
What exactly does that mean? Well, it means that you will probably die in a car accident before you die in an asteroid impact. The odds of dying in a car crash are about 1 in 100.
There is Time to Observe
The problem with the 2011 AG5 impact scenario is that there are a lot of unknowns that astronomers have to figure out before 2011 AG5 can be considered a real threat.
According to Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency's Solar System Missions Division in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, “We have only observed it for about half an orbit, thus the confidence in these calculations is still not very high.”
Scientists will have plenty of opportunities to study the asteroid and modify these predictions if needed. Donald Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif states that astronomers will have most of 2013 through 2016 to observe 2011 AG5.
When the data comes in from those observations scientists will have time to discuss deflection methods, if necessary. Yeoman contends that "...there would be time to mount a deflection mission to alter its course before the 2023 keyhole.”
The keyhole is an area of space the asteroid must pass through for it to become a real threat to Earth. Scientists believe that if the asteroid does not pass through the keyhole, either naturally or due to deflection methods, Earth will not be in any danger.
So, the current plan is to observe and report.
The Effects of an Impact
Therefore, before panicking, it seems that there is plenty of time - and there may even be a number of ways to deflect the asteroid.
Yet, what would happen if AG 2011 smacked into Earth? That would definitely depend upon the asteroid’s makeup and velocity. However, when discussing another asteroid of similar size, (2005 YU55) scientists was surmised that it would result in a:
“...4,000-megaton blast, magnitude 7.0 earthquake and, should it strike in the deep ocean, 70-foot-high tsunami waves 60 miles from the splashdown site.”
The Perdue professor calculated this using Perdue’s Impact Earth asteroid impact calculator, which is available to the public at The Perdue website.
However, if you are a more visual person, then you may prefer the Impact Calculator by Edward Gomes and Jon Yardley. It is located at Down2Earth, and uses Google Maps to show how large of a crater an impact would leave, and how it would affect your area.
Both are very interesting impact calculators.
As for 2011 AG5, it is too early to panic. Yet, not enough is known about it to simply just dismiss it as well. It is definitely worth studying so that you can be prepared. If the information is not good news; then there is plenty of time for the greatest engineers and scientists of the world to develop a deflection attempt - something that, up until now, has only been fodder for Hollywood.