----- <begin forwarded article excerpt> -----


Scientists: Asteroid Passed Earth


(AP) An asteroid the size of a football field hurtled past the Earth a week ago, missing what could have been a catastrophic collision by a mere 75,000 miles? less than a third of the distance to the moon. The miss was one of the nearest ever recorded for an object of that size, scientists said Thursday. "It was a close shave," said Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.


The asteroid would have caused "considerable loss of life" if it had struck Earth in a populated area, said Grant Stokes, the principal investigator for the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project, whose New Mexico observatory spotted the object last week.


"The energy release would be of the magnitude of a large nuclear weapon," Stokes said. The asteroid was not detected until three days after it sped past Earth on June 14. When such asteroids are detected, they are usually spotted far from Earth, when they are approaching or on their way out.


The asteroid, provisionally named 2002 MN, was travelling at more than 23,000 mph when it was spotted, Stokes said in a phone interview from Lexington, Mass., where he is associate head of the aerospace division of MIT Lincoln Laboratory....


----- <end excerpt> -----


Return to SCIENCE contents


Return to SERENDIPITY contents