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Asteroid May Hit Earth in 18 Years

An asteroid was discovered a few weeks ago that astronomersthink will impact the Earth 18 years from now. The asteroid,known as NT7, has an orbit that's on a collision course withEarth and if nothing changes, it will hit us on February 1,2019.

From its brightness, astronomers thinks it's over a milewide, which is large enough to devastate a entire continent,if it strikes land. If it hits the ocean, it would producetidal waves that would engulf coastlines. Thedebris given off by the impact could significantly changeour global weather.

Scientists are hoping that further studies will show thatNT7 will be a near-miss, like a recent asteroid that passedbetween Earth and the moon. We didn?t know about that oneuntil the danger was over, so if it had hit, it would havetaken us completely by surprise.

NT7 was first seen on the night of July 5th by the LinearObservatory in New Mexico. Since then, astronomers worldwide have been keeping an eyeon it.

Dr. Benny Peiser, of John Moores University in the U.K.,says, "This asteroid has now become the most threateningobject in the short history of asteroid detection," andadds, "This unique event should not diminish the fact thatadditional observations in coming weeks will almostcertainly - we hope - eliminate the current threat."

NT7 circles the Sun every 837 days and travels in a tiltedorbit from about the distance of Mars to just within theEarth's orbit. It will be easily observable for the next 18months, so there?s no chance of losing track of it.Astronomers are also looking for signs of the asteroid inold photos that were taken using telescopes. They hope tosoon know its precise orbit.

Dr. Donald Yeomans of NASA says, "The orbit of this objectis rather highly inclined to the Earth's orbit so it hasbeen missed because until recently, observers were notlooking for such objects in that region of space."

He says we can expect more surprises like NT7 in our futurebecause ?the problem of Near-Earth Objects is now beingproperly addressed." But that doesn?t mean we know what todo about them.

How did ancient civilizations cope with disaster? Find outfrom ?Catastrophobia? by Barbara HandClow,click here.

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