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ESA confirms asteroid will miss Earth in 2019
Asteroid 2006 QV89, a small object 20 to 50 metres in diameter, was in the news lately because of a very small, one-in-7000 chance of impact with Earth on 9 September 2019.
In the first known case of ruling out an asteroid impact through a “non-detection,” ESA and the European Southern Observatory have concluded that asteroid 2006 QV89 is not on a collision course this year—and the chance of any future impact is extremely remote.
Asteroids come and go, quite literally, often frustrating astronomers. You can catch sight of a hurtling space rock, take some measurements to narrow down its orbit, and days later it’s gone—potentially remaining unobservable for decades.
In general, when an asteroid is found to have even a tiny chance of impacting Earth, further observations and measurements are taken. These “astrometric” data refine our understanding of the asteroid’s path, improving our understanding of the risk it poses and often excluding any chance of collision altogether.
However, the case of asteroid 2006 QV89 is peculiar. The object was discovered in August 2006 and then observed for only ten days. These observations suggested it had a 1-in-7000 chance of impacting Earth on 9 September 2019.
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