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A space rock capable of sub-continent scale devastation has about a one in 1,000 risk of colliding with Earth early next century, the highest of any known asteroid, watchers said on Thursday. The rock, 2004 VD17, is about 500 metres (yards) long and has a mass of nearly a billion tonnes, which -- if it were to impact -- would deliver 10,000 megatonnes of energy, equivalent to all the world's nuclear weapons. Spotted on November 27 2004, VD 17 was swiftly identified as rock that potentially crossed Earth's orbit, with a 1 in 3,000 risk of collision on May 4 2102. Further observations and calculations have prompted the risk on that day to be upgraded to "a bit less than 1 in 1,000," said NASA Near-Earth Object (NEO) expert David Morrison in an emailed circular. "The risk of an impact within the next century (is) higher than that of any other known asteroid
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.