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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Apr > Apr 21

Astronomers Discover Mile-Wide Asteroid

From: Sean Jones <tedric@tedric.demon.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 06:57:06 +0100
Fwd Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 03:05:21 -0400
Subject: Astronomers Discover Mile-Wide Asteroid



From the BBC science news page yesterday:

Astronomers have discovered a mile-wide asteroid that could collide
with the Earth in 40 years time.

If it did, the devastation would be continent-wide, with massive
global effects for decades. Hundreds of millions of people would
die and many animal species would be wiped out.

The object is called asteroid 1999 AN10 and it was discovered on
13 January. It was picked up by the Linear telescopic survey
that scans the sky for so-called Neo's - Near Earth Objects.

1999 AN10 circles the Sun every 643 days and twice each year the
Earth comes close to the giant rock.

From almost a hundred observations made of it since its
discovery, astronomers have determined its orbit. Close
approaches to Earth occur in 2027, but no impacts are possible
then according to Andrea Milani and Steven Chesley of the
University of Pisa. But 2039 is a different matter.

Close monitoring

In calculating the orbit for 1999 AN10, the Italian astronomers
say that for August 2039 "a collision solution actually exists."

It is important to note that this is different from a definite
prediction of a collision.

In fact, from what is known at the moment, the probability of
1999 AN10 striking the Earth must be less than the probability
of being hit by an undiscovered asteroid on a given day.

Nonetheless, now that the asteroid has been found, its orbit is
attracting attention.

The Italian astronomers say it will have to be monitored
closely. They add that it is conceivable that at some time in
the future a decision could be made to deflect or destroy it
just like in the movie Armageddon. Website publication Where has
this announcement of major importance been made? Not in a press
release but without much fuss on the astronomers' own Website.

NASA is concerned about the way in which information gets out.

Dr Benny Peiser of Liverpool's John Moores University, an expert
in Near Earth Objects, has expressed concern that the news of
1999 AN10 was released on a Website without going through normal
review procedures.

"There is no reason whatsoever why the findings about 1999 AN10
should not be available to the general public - unless they have
not been checked."

He adds that, if they have not been verified, they should not
have been posted on the web in the first place.

The reason why the Italian astronomers have released their
worrying findings this way may be a reaction to stringent Nasa
rules regarding the reporting of potential asteroid impacts.

Asteroid scare

Following a scare last year, when it was thought that asteroid
1997 XF11 may strike us, a claim retracted 24 hours later, Nasa
has clamped down on what it calls the premature release of
sensitive data.

1997 XF11 was a false alarm. It is unlikely that 1999 AN10 will
hit us - but it cannot be ruled out completely at this stage.

Calculations suggest that this asteroid will remain "dangerously
close" to Earth for the next 600 years.

According to Barry Peiser, what is worrying is not the chances
of 1999 AN10 striking the Earth but the "unnecessary and
detrimental secrecy that surrounds this object."

Other astronomers have said that the Italian astronomers have
followed the correct procedure to distribute information about
1999 AN10 and that there is no reason at this stage why they
should hav

---
      People can have it any colour, as long as its black!
                       Sean Jones
 Homepage--http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Zone/1745/index.htm
         Research page--http://www.tedric.demon.co.uk/

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