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Asteroid update: End of world on hold

By Richard Stenger

Artist's impression of asteroid over Earth

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(CNN) -- A newly discovered asteroid has zero chance of colliding with Earth in 11 years, although preliminary data had suggested such a doomsday scenario was possible, astronomers said this week.

New data allowed a more refined projection of the orbit of the space rock, dubbed 2003 QQ47 -- ruling out more than a dozen possible strike dates, according to the Near Earth Objects Information Center.

Earlier this week, the U.K.-based asteroid-monitoring center posted a Web announcement stating that there was a remote chance the asteroid would hit our planet in 2014, possibly unleashing the energy equivalent of millions of nuclear bombs.

Despite cautioning that the odds were almost 1 in a million and that further study would probably rule out any possibility, the center could not stem sensationalist stories from some media outlets worldwide.

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"Some may question whether the center should have posted the information about 2003 QQ47 on the Web site in the first place," the center said in a Web statement several days after the original announcement.

"However we hope by keeping the public and media informed of this kind of issue, as it is unfolding rather than after the fact, we can promote the process of asteroid detection, tracking and risk assessment."

2003 QQ47, estimated to be about 1.2 kilometers wide, is a fraction of the size of the space boulder thought to have smacked into Earth and hastened the end of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, according to center researcher Kevin Yates.

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