Astronomers Warn Again of Possible Asteroid Collision in 2028

A mile-wide asteroid described as "the most dangerous one we've found so far" may be on course for a 2028 collision with Earth and certainly will pass closer than any such object in modern times, astronomers said.

"The chance of an actual collision is small but one is not entirely out of the question," according to a notice filed by the International Astronomical Union. But asteroid specialist Jack G. Hills said the speeding space rock, called asteroid 1997 XF11, poses a real danger to Earth.

"This is the first reaaly big one to pass this close," said Hills, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist. "This is the most dangerous one we've found so far."

He added: "It scares me. It really does. An object this big hitting the Earth has the potential of killing many, many people."

"It has enormous destructive potential," agreed Steven Maran of the American Astronomical Society, but he added it will take several more years of observations before experts are certain of its path.

Asteroid 1997 XF11 was discovered Dec. 6 by the University of Arizona Spacewatch program and was added to a list of 108 asteroids considered to be "potentially hazardous objects."

Maran noted that no asteroid the size of 1997 XF11 has ever been predicted to pass so close to the Earth.

--The State, 3-12-98, p. A6.