An asteroid discovered in January 2011 is plotting a course too close for comfort, say astronomers. The space rock 2011 AG5 was recently discussed before a scientific subcommittee of the UN and some scientists are urging discussion of a plan to alter the object’s trajectory. However, the asteroid has only been observed for one half orbit so only more time will reveals the rock’s true intentions. The potential impact date is 2040.
What’s the Big Idea?
Whether the rock is set on a collision course with Earth depends on how it is affected by a keyhole, a small space through which passing objects are influenced by Earth’s gravity. 2011 AG5 is expected to pass through the keyhole in 2023. If, after more observations are made, scientists decide the asteroid’s course should be altered, they could prevent it from entering the 2023 keyhole or try to deflect it once it has passed through. The two popular deflection options are a costly multikinetic impactor or a nuclear bomb.