A mountain-sized asteroid which crosses paths with the Earth every three years has been discovered by a Russian scientist.
Vladimir Lipunov, a professor at Moscow State University, said the space rock, named ‘2014 UR116’, poses no apparent immediate threat, but he warned that could easily change and hit the Earth with an explosion 1,000 times greater than the surprise 2013 impact of a bus-sized meteor in Russia. That object entered Earth’s atmosphere over the city of Chelyabinsk, resulting in a series of ferocious blasts that blew out windows and damaged buildings for miles around before finally devastating a large impact area .
Prof Lipunov said it is difficult to calculate the orbit of big rocks like ‘2014 UR116’ because their trajectories are constantly being changed by the gravitational pull of other planets
And he warns that its existence proves how little scientists know about other asteroids which could cause harm to the planet.
We need to permanently track this asteroid, because even a small mistake in calculations could have serious consequences.
Of 100,000 near-Earth objects which can cross our planet’s orbit and are large enough to be dangerous, only about 11,000 have so far been tracked and cataloged.
However NASA warned that ‘2014 UR116’ did not pass close enough to the Earth to be considered a threat … “at this time, but that could change.”
“While this approximately 400-meter-sized asteroid has a three-year orbital period around the sun and returns to the Earth’s neighborhood periodically, it does not represent a threat because its orbital path does not pass sufficiently close to the Earth’s orbit,” NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office said in a statement.
NASA said that computer models showed that the asteroid would be an impact threat for at least 150 years.
Last week scientists from across the world came together to warn that asteroids could wipe out humanity unless more effort is made to track and destroy them.
Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins are among more than 100 experts calling for the creation of a huge asteroid detection system to prevent a doomsday scenario.
“The ancients were correct in their belief that the heavens and the motion of astronomical bodies affect life on Earth – just not in the way they imagined,” said Lord Rees.
“Sometimes those heavenly bodies run into Earth. This is why we must make it our mission to find asteroids before they find us.”
Systems are already in place to track large asteroids, but recent research suggests that rocks as small as 164 feet across would still be big enough to cause devastating results on Earth.
“NASA has done a very good job of finding the very largest objects, the ones that would destroy the human race,” said Ed Lu, an astronaut who flew three trips to the International Space Station.
“It’s the ones that would destroy a city or hit the economy for a couple of hundred years that are the problem.”