Rock or Rocket?
In early November the International Astronomical Union announced that a near-Earth object discovered a month earlier might hit Earth by 2030. Now Donald Yeomans of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has new data that rule out that prediction. Using prediscovery images from 1999 of the object, named SG344, to recalculate its orbit, Yeomans predicts that there is a 1-in-1,000 chance of a collision on September 16, 2071. Perhaps more interesting, however, is the nature of SG344. Because its orbit is so similar to Earth's, scientists believe the object may actually be debris from an Apollo-era rocket booster masquerading as a space rock. The booster fragment would be too small to pose a threat. The investigation continues. --Diane Martindale