Observations today show Asteriod 2004 MN4, having a diameter of 0.39km (about 1/4 mile) and a mass of 83 billion kg (183 billion pounds) has a 2.2% probability of impacting on Earth at a speed of 12.59km/s (28,163 mph (7.82 miles/sec)) and giving off the energy of 1.6 billion tons of TNT (or rather 3 trillion pounds).
The atomic bomb that devistated Nagasaki gave off the energy of only 20 thousand tons of TNT.
The energy that flattened around 1,000 square miles of Tanguska forest was approximately 10 million tons of TNT (Asteriod 2004 MN4 would be 160 times as powerful).
We have a little time, though – it’s not projected to impact, if it does, until April 13th, 2029.
Plus, the imact that wiped out the dinosaurs so long ago from that impact in Mexico was estimated to be between 30 million to 100 million megatons of TNT – whereas 2004 MN4 is would be a paltry 1,600 megatons… 😉
Of the appromiately 15,000 known nuclear devices we have today, the 2004 MN4 impact would only be like detonating 2,400 of them simultaneously.
Asteriod 2004 MN4 was discovered just this year, on June 19th at Kitt Peak observatory in Arizona. It has been increasing in impact probability, though is still very unlikely to happen. It is far more likely impact will be disproven at this stage.
On 23 December, the odds of impact were 1 in 300. On 24 December, the odds were 1 in 60. Today, 25 December, the odds are 1 in 45.
We really do need better monitoring technologies for space – and to focus more up there, instead of oil and money stuff down here.
UPDATE: 28 December 2004
Well, it looks like the trajectory of 2004 MN4 is now better determined, and it looks like we’ll be safe. 🙂
Apparently with further observations, scientists have been able to determine the asteroid will leave the “cone” of probability altogether.
I believe 2004 MN4 achieved the highest risk factor yet at NASA’s NEO center. Again, NEO detects mostly known objects – the worst case scenario (well, as far as knowledge of the event goes) is a rogue asteriod or comet that is not in known locations – of which there are… well… quite a few.
Gosh, I suppose now I’ll have to think about things like keeping the environment clean, and doing things that help the future. Damn. 😉
“As is often the case, the possibility of future Earth impacts for some near-Earth objects cannot be entirely ruled out until the uncertainties associated with their trajectories are reduced as a result of either future position observations, or in this case, heretofore unrecognized, pre-discovery observations. When these additional observations were used to update the orbit of 2004 MN4, the uncertainties associated with this object’s future positions in space were reduced to such an extent that none of the object’s possible trajectories can impact the Earth (or Moon) in 2029.
In the accompanying diagram, the most likely position of asteroid 2004 MN4 is shown at the end of the blue line near the Earth on 13 April 2029. However, since the asteroid’s position in space is not perfectly known at that time, the white dots at right angles to the blue line are possible alternate positions of the asteroid. Neither the nominal position of the asteroid, nor any of its possible alternative positions, touches the Earth, indicating that an Earth impact in 2029 is ruled out.”