A SHOT ACROSS THE EARTH'S BOW

LAST WEEK'S HEAVENLY NEAR-MISS WAS A RECORD. ARE WE READY FOR THE NEXT INCOMING ASTEROID?

At the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, Timothy Spahr, 26, peered through a stereoscopic microscope, shook his head and looked again. In the combined image of two telescopic photos he had shot 30 minutes apart a few nights earlier, a bright dot with a small tail stood out starkly against the background of fixed stars. "I was extremely excited, heart pounding and all that stuff," says Spahr, a graduate student from the University of Florida who was surveying the skies for undiscovered asteroids. He immediately shot and developed a second set of photos, and was shocked to see that in just...

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