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Observations by astronomers tracking near-Earth asteroids have raised a new object to the top of the Earth-threat list.
The asteroid could strike the Earth in 2102. However, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, told New Scientist: "The most likely situation, by far, is that additional observations will bring it back down to a zero."
He adds: "We're more likely to be hit between now and then by an object that we don't know about."
On 23 February, new observations allowed researchers to more accurately calculate the orbit of the asteroid, named 2004 VD17, which was originally detected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's LINEAR project. Since the improvement did not rule out a potential collision with the Earth on 4 May 2102, they increased the asteroid's rating to level 2 on the Torino Scale, a relatively rare event.
2004 YD5 was discovered Tuesday, Dec. 21 by Stan Pope, who volunteers his time to examine images provided by the FMO (Fast Moving Object) project, an online program run by the University of Arizona's Spacewatch Project. After the initial detection, other observers noted the object's position during the day and its path was then calculated back. Closest approach occurred on Dec. 19.
"We're more likely to be hit between now and then by an object that we don't know about."