Asteroid 2011 AG5 missed the keyhole


Welp, there goes another apocalyptic prophecy — this one grounded in reality, mind, but it means we can scrub the 2040 doomsday off our calendar.

Earlier in 2012 only a few observations of AG5 could be made before it got too close to the Sun to see. Those allowed the crude estimate of where it would be in 2040, and that big fuzzy volume of space included the Earth.

However, new observations taken with the monster Gemini telescope in Hawaii allowed a far better orbit to be calculated. The path of the asteroid in 2040 was found, and now clearly does not include the Earth. It will be a clean miss, by about 900,000 kilometers (550,000 miles). This is more than twice the distance to the Moon, if that helps.

With this new calculation, we have little to worry about in 2040. Though, it seems, humanity does love a doomsday. I don’t expect this will truly dissuade people who want another hit of that doomsday high.

Hat tip to Phil Plait in his new digs at Slate.

Comments

  1. postman says

    I think you misused the term keyhole. Also, not really big enough to cause an apocalypse. Great disaster sure but nothing in a global scale.

  2. says

    Not sure that I did. 2011 AG5 was apparently possibly going to hit a keyhole area in passing Earth this year where, if it passed through that area, in 2040 it would definitely hit Earth. Sure, it’d be a SMALL apocalypse, but it would have been an apocalypse nonetheless. (For local values of apocalypse.)

  3. Rodney Nelson says

    I think people would notice if 2011 AG5 would hit the Earth. As Phil Plait explained:

    It would explode upon impact with a yield of more than 100 megatons, far larger than even the biggest nuclear weapon ever detonated on Earth. While that wouldn’t cause a worldwide extinction event—this is no dinosaur-killer—an explosion equal to blowing up 100 million tons of TNT is something to be avoided.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Can we at least carve off a tiny bit of it and let the butterfly effect bring it near Earth? It would be nice to park it in lunar orbit (or in Earth orbit at a safe altitude) as a soruce of raw material for orbital factories.

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