Earth's Close Shave

BBC News
Dr. David Whitehouse
March 21, 2000

A newly-discovered asteroid will pass moderately close to the Earth in the next few days. Designated 2000 EW70, the space rock will come within about 1.9 million kilometres (1.2 million miles) of the planet - or about five times the Earth-Moon distance. Suggestions of a collision sometime in the future have been exaggerated, say astronomers.

On 9 March, the Linear asteroid patrol camera in New Mexico picked up a fast-moving object. A preliminary calculation of its orbit suggested it would make a moderately close pass in a few weeks.

At that time, there was nothing very unusual about the situation until the alarm was raised by the US astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope, that claimed that the newly-discovered asteroid "could threaten Earth at some future date."

Since then, however, astronomers have tried to put 2000 EW70 into perspective. "There is no evidence, to my knowledge, to suggest that asteroid 2000 EW70 poses any threat to collide with Earth in the near future," says Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK.

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