Don Yeomans, Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas
NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office
December 27, 2004
Over the past week, several independent efforts were made to search for pre-discovery observations of 2004 MN4. These efforts proved successful today when Jeff Larsen and Anne Descour of the Spacewatch Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, were able to detect and measure very faint images of asteroid 2004 MN4 on archival images dating to 15 March 2004. These observations extended the observed time interval for this asteroid by three months allowing an improvement in its orbit so that an Earth impact on 13 April 2029 can now be ruled out.
As is often the case, the possibility of future Earth impacts for some near-Earth objects cannot be entirely ruled out until the uncertainties associated with their trajectories are reduced as a result of either future position observations, or in this case, heretofore unrecognized, pre-discovery observations. When these additional observations were used to update the orbit of 2004 MN4, the uncertainties associated with this object’s future positions in space were reduced to such an extent that none of the object’s possible trajectories can impact the Earth (or Moon) in 2029.
The passage of the asteroid by the Earth in 2029 alters its subsequent trajectory and expands the asteroid’s position uncertainty region so the asteroid’s subsequent motion is less certain than it was prior to the 2029 close Earth approach. However, our current risk analysis for 2004 MN4 indicates that no subsequent Earth encounters in the 21st century are of any concern.
BLOGGER’S NOTE: (from just four days earlier?!)
Near-Earth Asteroid 2004 MN4 Reaches Highest Score To Date On Hazard Scale (Near Earth Object Program Office – December 23, 2004)
BLOGGER’S NOTE: From which I quote, “December 24 Update: 2004 MN4 is now being tracked very carefully by many astronmers around the world, and we continue to update our risk analysis for this object. Today’s impact monitoring results indicate that the impact probability for April 13, 2029 has risen to about 1.6%, which for an object of this size corresponds to a rating of 4 on the ten-point Torino Scale.”
BLOGGER’S NOTE: Translation, “Nothing to see here…you can all go home now.”