Torino Scale Changes

After the public concern over asteroid 2004 MN4 a few months ago, a working group of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has decided to revise the wording of the Torino scale. The scale, agreed in Torino, Italy in 1999, is a rating of the danger posed by an asteroid and is supposed to be comparable to the Richter scale used for earthquakes. Unfortunately, when 2004 MN4 was initially given a rating of 4, this caused some panic.

The scale itself has not been changed, but some of the descriptions have been altered. Level 4 was previously labelled "meriting concern" but has now been changed to "a close encounter, meriting attention by astronomers". The working group also make an attempt to point out that Torino ratings are subject to change (usually down) once more observations are taken. Unlike the movie Deep Impact, you can't predict an entire orbit from one observation. As the aim is to reduce public concern, perhaps it wasn't a great idea to colour-code the scale so that it resembles the US Homeland Security Advisory system.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 14th Apr 2005 (20:33 UTC) | Permalink
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