Nasa identifies 10,000th Near-Earth object, MZ5: Apocalypse still on hold

The new discovery is thankfully only 300 metres across and orbits at a safe distance from Earth

Nasa have announced the ten thousandth addition to their catalogue of Near-Earth objects (NEOs) – a list of asteroids, comets, and meteoroids whose orbits bring them close to Earth.

This latest discovery is the asteroid now known as 2013 MZ5, which was detected earlier this month by astrologers in Maui.

"Finding 10,000 near-Earth objects is a significant milestone," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for Nasa's NEO Observations Program. "But there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth."

Approximately 300 metres in diameter, MZ5 does not travel close enough to earth to pose any threat. Of the current list of 10,000 NEOs, roughly 10 per cent are larger than a kilometre in size and could cause global devastation in the event of an impact with earth.

The most famous collision of all time is widely held to be the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event; the impact of a 10 kilometere wide object approximately 65 million years ago that was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs along with three-quarters of all plant and animal life on Earth.

Luckily, none of these objects are close enough to hit Earth, though NASA notes that even NEOs larger than 100 feet across would do significant damage if they fell in urban areas.

"The first near-Earth object was discovered in 1898," said Don Yeomans, manager of Nasa's NEO Program Office. "Over the next hundred years, only about 500 had been found. But then, with the advent of Nasa's NEO Observations program in 1998, we've been racking them up ever since.”

Nasa’s NEO program currently records around three discoveries a day, with the work conducted under the knowledge that any space debris that threatens Earth could be deflected if discovered in time.

The largest known NEO is 4179 Toutatis, an asteroid with a chaotic orbit caused by the switching influence of Earth and Jupiter's gravities. Its dimension are approximately 4.6km by 2.4km, though thankfully the chances of it hitting earth are very small.

Current hypothetical methods of deflecting such an asteroid would be to either launch a spacecraft to hover near the object, using the small change in gravity to pull it off course; hitting the asteroid with said spacecraft, or attempting to break up the asteroid with nuclear weapons.

However, any of these methods would require at least ten years advance warning if they had any hope to be successful.

Asteroid, comets and meteoroids oh my

NASA’s list of NEOs includes all three categories, but knowing the difference might save your planet. Comets are mainly composed of ice and dust with a hard rock center. As they approach the sun, the ice begins to vaporize creating a distinctive tail that can be millions of miles long.

Asteroids have the same rock center, but double down by surrounding this with a hard rocky exterior as well. They’re basically rocks, is the scientific consensus. They range in size from tens of meters of kilometres across and yet astronomers estimate that their total mass combined is less than half that of the moon.

Meteoroids are the smallest of the bunch - off-shoots from asteroids or comets. When they enter the Earth’s atmosphere they begin to burn up creating shooting stars. At this point they become meteors rather than meteoroids.  

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?