NASA’s new Scout system – a computerized system designed to determine whether asteroids pose a risk to the Earth, has spotted a large asteroid which will come close to the planet – but not hit – late Sunday night. According to a report from NPR, the Scout system, which is brand new and currently being tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, detected a large asteroid heading our way earlier in the week but determined that it would miss by 310,000 miles – extremely close in astronomical terms – close enough to be affected by Earth’s gravity.
Tonight’s asteroid was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) array on Maui, Hawaii, a NASA-funded telescope system. Scout scooped the preliminary details when they appeared on the website of the Minor Planet Center, part of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and did some quick calculations to determine if Earth was in danger. It determined that the asteroid was headed for Earth, but not quite closely enough to start worrying. NASA pays for several telescopes like the Pan-STARRS array to scan near space every night and typically discovers at least five asteroids a night.