Friday, December 19, 2008

A new disaster to worry about using tax money

A blue-ribbon panel of scientists is trying to determine the best way to detect and ward off any wandering space rocks that might be on a collision course with Earth.

"We're looking for the killer asteroid,'' James Heasley, of the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, last week told the committee that the National Academy of Sciences created at Congress' request.

Congress asked the academy to conduct the study after astronomers were unable to eliminate an extremely slight chance that an asteroid called Apophis will slam into Earth with devastating effect in 2036.

Apophis was discovered in 2004 about 17 million miles from Earth on a course that would overlap our planet's orbit in 2029 and return seven years later. Observers said that the asteroid — a massive boulder left over from the birth of the solar system — is about 1,000 feet wide and weighs at least 50 million tons.

After further observations, astronomers reported that the asteroid would skim by Earth harmlessly in 2029, but it has a one in 44,000 probability of slamming into our planet on Easter Sunday, April 13, 2036.

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