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6/29/06 - An Air Force installation in Colorado Springs and one near Denver are operating with heightened security.
The Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, which houses NORAD, is now at "Bravo-Plus".
There are five levels of alert: normal, Alpha (low), Bravo (medium), Charlie (high) and Delta (critical). “Bravo-Plus” is slightly higher than a medium threat level.
An asteroid up to half a mile wide is expected to brush past the Earth on Monday, approaching almost as close as the Moon.
In astronomical terms, that counts as a near miss. But scientists who had been tracking the path of asteroid 2004 XP14 are not worried.
They know that the space rock, travelling at 17km per second, would not hit the Earth. Nevertheless, 2004 XP14 has been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) along with 782 known others.
The object, discovered in December 2004, is one of a class of "Apollo" asteroids whose orbits cross that of the Earth.
Initially there were concerns that the asteroid might collide with the Earth later this century. However, further analysis of its orbit has ruled this out - at least for the foreseeable future.
If XP14 did hit the Earth the effects would be devastating.
"It would probably be big enough to wipe out a small country," said Dr David Asher, from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland.
Scientists hope to gather valuable information about the asteroid by bouncing radar signals off it from the 230ft diameter Goldstone dish in California's Mojave desert.
Although the object's size is not precisely known, it is thought to range between 1,345ft and 3,018ft - between a quarter and just over a half-mile wide.
Another asteroid due to make an even closer fly-by on April 13, 2029, will be easy to see with the naked eye. Asteroid 99942 Apophis, which measures about 1,000ft across, will be visible from Asia and North Africa as it passes within 20,000 miles of the Earth.