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Science editor Robin McKie reports from Boston as experts create warning systems to minimise risk from impact
The extraterrestrial double whammy that Earth only partially avoided on Friday has triggered an immediate response from astronomers. Several have announced plans to create state-of-the-art detection systems to give warning of incoming asteroids and meteoroids. These include projects backed by Nasa as well as proposals put forward by private space contractors.
The fact that the two events happened together has been dismissed as "a cosmic coincidence" by scientists. Nevertheless, astronomers – many gathered at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston this weekend – have been quick to reassure the public that they have plans to provide better warnings of future impacts.
Astronomers believe they have pinpointed all large asteroids whose orbits bring them close to Earth. To date, none has been found on a collision course with our planet. However, small asteroids only a few dozen metres across are very difficult to spot but massive enough to cause local devastation.