The Earth plays a high-stakes Game of Asteroids

An asteroid may someday end life on Earth, but it won't be this one. The asteroid called "3200 Phaethon" will pass within six-point-four million miles of Earth December 16th.

Rice astronomer Dr. Patricia Reiff says don't sweat this one.

"Even though it is the closest approach of this asteroid in 40 years it's certainly not the closest approach of any asteroid in the last 40 years."

But Dr. Reiff says the Earth will have to do something about some asteroid someday.

"I think it's very likely that a big asteroid will hit somewhere populated on Earth in the next 100 years; that said, is there anything we can do about it today? Not much, except keep our eyes on the skies."

Dr. Reiff says we need to work on our defenses.

"With enough funding and enough planning -- and if we find it early enough -- there are some things we can do to disable or slightly move an asteroid that's on a collision path with the Earth."

One option is to launch a missile to hit an asteroid and slightly alter its course so it will miss Earth. Experts say you don't want to blow 'em up because that might send a bunch of tiny asteroids heading our way.

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