PASADENA, Calif. -- Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have downgraded the threat of an object now speeding toward Earth and say there is no chance it will hit the Earth in 2030, but a 1 in 1,000 chance it could hit the Earth on Sept. 16, 2071.
Last week, scientists with NASA's office of Near Earth Objects and the International Astronomical Union announced there was a 1 in 500 chance that an object could hit the Earth in 2030. But additional observations have improved predictions of the object's path and suggest it will pass no closer to the Earth than 2.7 million miles on that date -- 11 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.
"As we noted, the most likely scenario was that we will find additional observations that would render this prediction invalid," said Don Yeomans, manager of the NASA office. "If there are 499 chances it won't hit and one that it will, new data will almost every time render it invalid."
This is the second embarrassing collision retraction in recent years. In 1998, scientists at the Minor Planets Center in Cambridge, Mass., gained worldwide headlines when they announced that a milewide asteroid had a small chance of hitting the Earth in 2028.
The prediction was retracted a day later when more calculations were made. In that case, the corrections came from JPL.
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