from the gotta-get-off-this-rock dept.
According to an article from the Reuters news service ("Two Hefty Asteroids Pass Close to Earth", by Deborah Zabarenko, 16 January 2002), two hefty asteroids passed close to Earth on 16 January 2002, with at least five more set to swing near by January's end. One of the close-approaching asteroids measured between .6 and 1.8 miles in diameter, a big enough space rock to cause catastrophe if it collided with Earth. According to the report, at least five more fairly big asteroids were to pass close to Earth's orbit before Jan. 29, according to NASA's Near Earth Object Program. The article also notes there was some mild consternation over asteroid 2001 YB5, a 1,000-foot wide asteroid that got within 500,000 miles of Earth during the second week of January.
NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project watches for asteroids .6 miles or more across that have the potential to wreak havoc on Earth if they hit. Of the approximately 1,200 big dangerous asteroids believed to exist, scientists have detected 564. The vast majority of those — 471 — have been discovered since 1990.
Many scientists believe that an asteroid perhaps 3 miles across wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species when it crashed to Earth at the end of the Cretaceous era 65 million years ago. According to another press release (17 January 2002), at team of University of Arizona scientists will begin field work on an international project to core 1.8 kilometers into an immense crater created by the impact of an asteroid or comet 65 million years ago that is thought to be the object responsible for the Cretaceous extinctions. The project, the Chicxulub Scientific Drilling Project (CSDP), is located near Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico.