'Potentially hazardous' asteroid to make close pass by Earth

Feb. 17, 2014 at 5:36 PM
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WOODSTOCK, N.Y., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- An asteroid the size of three football fields, classified as "potentially hazardous," will make a close pass of the Earth late Monday, a U.S. astronomer says.

However, asteroid 2000 EM26 poses no threat this time around and at its closest at 9 p.m. ET will pass the Earth at just under nine times the distance to the moon, he said.

Still, at more than 800 feet wide and traveling at 27,000 mph, it has been defined as a potentially hazardous near-Earth object large enough to cause significant damage in the event of an impact.

The Slooh robotic telescope service, which connects land-based telescopes to the Internet for access by the broader public, will capture images of the asteroid making its flyby.

"On a practical level, a previously unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908 and February 15, 2013," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman in Woodstock, N.Y., told Britain's The Guardian.

He was referring to the so-called Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908 and the meteor that exploded of the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013.

"Every few centuries, an even more massive asteroid strikes us -- fortunately usually impacting in an ocean or wasteland such an Antarctica," he said. "But the ongoing threat, and the fact that biosphere-altering events remain a real if small annual possibility, suggests that discovering and tracking all NEOs (near-Earth objects) as well as setting up contingency plans for deflecting them on short notice should the need arise, would be a wise use of resources."

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