Asteroid To Miss Earth In 2040, NASA Says

By Amir Khan on December 24, 2012 9:53 AM EST

Asteroid
This composite image shows the comparative sizes of eight asteroids. (Photo: NASA)

With the Mayan Apocalypse firmly behind us, people are wondering when Doomsday will actually come. But according to NASA, we don't have to worry about it coming in 2040 -- at least not from an asteroid. The giant 460-foot asteroid that many worried would slam into the planet in 2040 will miss us, NASA said.

"An analysis of the new data conducted by NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shows that the risk of collision in 2040 has been eliminated," NASA  said, according to CNN.

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The giant asteroid will instead pass within 553,000 miles of Earth, far enough away to not pose a threat, but close enough to provide an outstanding sight for anyone with a telescope. However, astronomers trying to study the asteroid had a hard time seeing it.

The asteroid is very close to the sun, making observation difficult. In addition, it had to be viewed at a low angle, obscuring the object even further.

"The second effect is the turbulence of the atmosphere makes things fainter," David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, told CNN. "We had to keep trying over and over until we got one of those nights when the atmosphere was calm."

The asteroid also changed in brightness, meaning that studying it to make sure its trajectory didn't bring it slamming into Earth very difficult.

"This object was changing its brightness by a factor of three or four -- it was just enormously variable," Tholen said. "It was hit and miss depending on which night you observed it."

Thankfully, the asteroids path will let it pass by Earth with more than enough clearance. However, researchers will continue to study the skies, looking for any asteroid that could pose a sizeable threat to the planet.

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