(EndPlay Staff Reports) - How likely is it that a recently discovered asteroid will hit Earth in the decades to come? Not very, say NASA scientists. Still, there's enough of a threat that scientists are already discussing possible ways of deflection.
In a worst-case scenario, Asteroid 2011 AG5 will hit Earth sometime in year 2040. Approximately 460 feet in size, the asteroid was discovered in 2011 by Mount Lemmon Survey astronomers in Tucson, Ariz. and is considered "high risk," according to Discovery.com .
Its current location makes observation difficult from Earth-bound telescopes, but that could change in September 2013, when AG5 orbits closer to Earth.
"In September 2013, we have the opportunity to make additional observations of 2011 AG5 when it comes within 91 million miles of Earth," said Don Yeomans , manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Currently, the odds of the space rock hitting the earth are 1-in-625 with those odds expected to shift with each additional observation. "… The odds will change and we expect them to change in Earth's favor," said Yeomans.
Other scientists agree. "We have only observed it for about half an orbit, thus the confidence in these calculations is still not very high," said Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency's Solar System Missions Division in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.
Koschny added that, ideally, two full orbits should be observed before making final calculations.
In the unlikely event that the asteroid maintains a collision course with Earth, it's not automatically a cause for panic. "We have time" Yeomans told Space.com , "to mount a deflection mission."