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MEDIA ADVISORY:UNH Space Scientist Says It's Possible the Giant Asteroid Is Coming in 30 Years, But Don't Run for Shelter Yet
DURHAM, N.H. -- A mile-wide asteroid is bearing down on our neighborhood, but it's not time to worry -- not yet.

News reports that the asteroid will travel within 30,000 miles of Earth in the year 2028 has people envisioning global cataclysm, but University of New Hampshire Professor of Physics Joseph Hollweg isn't too worried.

"It's possible it'll hit us, but not probable," says Hollweg. First, we need to observe its orbit more closely. It's moving out of viewing range due to the position of the Sun, says Hollweg, but there will be additional opportunities to observe its path more closely in the years 2000 and 2002.

The asteroid was discovered in December, and repeated observations have steadily refined the projected orbital path of the speeding space rock.

Tentative calculations are that the asteroid, called 1997 XF11, will pass within about 26,000 miles of the Earth's center on or about 1:30 p.m. EST on Oct. 26, 2028, and experts warn that there is a chance it could actually impact. Such a hit would release energy equal to thousands of atomic bombs.

Hollweg says there is no recorded instance of the Earth being struck by such an asteroid, although a smaller one flattened a Siberian forest earlier this century and a much larger one -- 10 miles across -- is blamed for the disappearance of the dinosaurs. "We've been hit before," Hollweg acknowledges.

For additional comment, call Prof. Hollweg at 862-3869.

Contact: Carmelle Druchniak, 603-862-1462

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