Published : Wednesday, 09 Feb 2011, 9:58 PM EST
FOX 13 News
TAMPA - It's the stuff movies are made of: NASA says there is a pretty big asteroid out there that could hit the Earth, and they are keeping a close eye on it.
They're even coming up with plans to shoot it down.
The asteroid is 900 feet wide, and it will actually make a fly-by Earth this December. In and of itself, it's not that unusual, because asteroids pass near Earth all the time.
(In fact, just today, an asteroid the size of a Volkswagen shot past the Earth so close that it was lower than some satellites.)
The asteroid NASA is keeping a close eye on is called Aphothos, and it's the next time it comes around that has some observers worried.
Radar images show the giant space rock coming at us first in 2013, then again in 2029, and once more on April 13, 2036.
It's that pass in 2036 that could bring a direct hit.
But don't build a bunker just yet: the chance of impact is one in a quarter million—very, very, very slim, and it won't happen by surprise.
To hit the earth, Apothos must hit an exact spot in the solar system that would direct the rock into our planet.
"No one should worry. Between Mars and Jupiter, we have an asteroid belt. There's all the asteroids going near the sun, and these objects are coming near the earth all the time," said Tim Hill, space manager at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.
And it turns out there's a special agency monitoring this stuff: it's NASA's Near Earth Objects Team.
"It's our job to monitor the inner solar system, and make sure that none of these objects are getting dangerously close to the earth," said Don Yeomans, Near Earth Object Team Manager.
If they do, NASA has all sorts of possible plans to deflect the asteroid. And some of them look nothing like Hollywood -- one fix could be as simple as launching a space ship near the asteroid.
"Just the gravity of from small spacecraft will just pull it slightly off of its path. It doesn't even have to be much, just enough to miss the Earth and send it back into outer space," Hill explained.
If all of this has piqued your interest about asteroids and NASA's Near Earth Object Program, here is a link to check it out: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/