Asteroids miss with astronomers

Close brushes actually fairly common

4:58pm, September 10, 2010

The only thing that was particularly unusual about two asteroids that zipped past Earth September 8, astronomers say, was that anybody noticed them.

Such close approaches — one of the asteroids passed within 79,000 kilometers of Earth — actually happen several times a week, according to scientists’ calculations. Yet some media outlets described the close encounter as if it were a brush with Armageddon.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know why they’re making such a fuss about it,” says astronomer Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “This is essentially nothing.”

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