The Pan-STARRS, a new 1.4-gigapixel telescope built to spot asteroids, has found a potentially dangerous asteroid headed for Earth. Luckily, we don’t have to worry just yet. It won’t hit us ’til 2098.
In October, the asteroid 2010 ST will come within six million kilometres of us, but that’s just the teaser. The real drama begins in 2098 when there’s a slight chance that it’ll give us a little more than a love tap. Admittedly, the chances of it hitting Earth are pretty low (and probably will only get lower over time) but if it does manage to make contact, the 46m asteroid will cause the same damage as a 20-megaton bomb. So, um, let’s hope not.
The bright side of the story is how early the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) spotted the asteroid (it was nearly 32 million kilometres away when discovered). It’s the only asteroid survey that is able to spot at such distances. The Pan-STARRS has only been around for three months, and this is the first asteroid it has found. Pretty good start. [University of Hawaii via PopSci]