3 Questions: Richard Binzel on near-Earth asteroids

Monday, June 27, 2011 - 11:01 in Astronomy & Space

On Monday at approximately 1:14 p.m. EDT, an asteroid named 2011 MD will pass only 7,500 miles above Earth’s surface — a close call in astronomical terms. The asteroid was discovered only last week by researchers at MIT Lincoln Lab’s Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project. Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary sciences at MIT, spoke with MIT News about such near-Earth objects and their potential to impact the planet.Q. The asteroid 2011 MD has been reported to be about the size of a bus — or twice as large as previous asteroids that have been observed this close to Earth. What brings an asteroid of this size so close to Earth without making an impact?A. Actually, asteroids of this size passing this close to Earth is relatively normal and the fact that they miss more often than hit is just good fortune — Earth is a relatively small target...

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