NEOs are asteroids or comets that come very close to the Earth’s orbit. More than 600,000 asteroids are known in the Solar System, and more than 10,000 of them are NEOs. Their sizes range from metres to tens of kilometres. Some NEOs could hit our planet and, depending on their size, produce considerable damage. While the chance of a large object hitting the Earth is very small, it could produce a great deal of destruction and loss of life—as the dinosaurs discovered 50 million or so years ago.
Up to now the asteroid 2009 FD had been ranked among the top five objects in a list of the most dangerous objects, but new observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have now shown that it is far less likely to hit the Earth than had been feared. The calculations show there is still a small chance of an impact between the years 2185 and 2198.
Image Credit: ESO