Astronomers on Maui discover asteroid which will pass close to Earth

Rob Jedicke
Rob Jedicke

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's life imitating art, as an asteroid is found by University of Hawaii astronomers, closing in on earth, just like in the movie "Armageddon."

But unlike that blockbuster flick, this big piece of rock may not pose any danger to us.

The new asteroid searching telescope on Maui is known as the world's largest digital camera. Just last week, it made its first picture perfect discovery of a potentially hazardous asteroid.

"Armageddon" hit the big screens with a big bang, capturing the imaginations and fears of many who thought maybe someday, this could happen in real life.

"So that movie was really fun to watch, but was not scientifically accurate, although it was a great movie, really what you don't wanna do, is go and blow up an asteroid, because rather than having that one bullet that hits the earth, which is bad enough, you create a whole bunch of buckshot and the buckshot causes more damage," UH astronomer Rob Jedicke said.

Jedicke and others discovered what's being called 2010 ST3, which will come within 4-million miles of earth in mid-October.

"It's a large chunk of rock, something like 50 yards, 60 yards in diameter that is coming towards the earth, it's not going to hit the earth, it's not going to come anywhere close, maybe ten times as far away as the moon," Jedicke said.

Astronomers first discovered it, while it was about 20-million miles away, with the Pan-STARRS telescope atop Haleakala.

They say it would probably break up in earth's atmosphere if it entered it, but the result would be a blast wave that could devastate hundreds of square miles of the earth's surface.

"So it's not really dangerous right now, but it could be dangerous in the future, in fact it has a very, very tiny chance of hitting the earth in 2098, but it's so tiny, it's not even worth worrying about right now," Jedicke said. "We want to find as many of these objects as possible, the odds that any one of these objects will hit us, is small, but there's a lot of objects out there, meaning that one of them is going to hit us in the next thousands of years, so we'd like to find that object before it hits."

The last asteroid that caused serious damage to the earth was about a hundred years ago in Siberia.

It's called the Tunguska event.

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