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Asteroid Heading for Columbus, Ohio - May Hit in 2014
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LONDON (Reuters) - A giant asteroid is heading for Earth and could hit Columbus, Ohio in 2014, U.S. astronomers have warned British space monitors.

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But for those fearing Armageddon, don't be alarmed -- it will only wipe out Columbus and a sizeable chunk of the rest of Ohio.

Asteroid "2003 QQ47" will be closely monitored over the next two months. Its potential strike date is March 21, 2014. Astronomers say that any risk of impact is likely to increase as further data is gathered.

On impact, it could have the effect of 20 million Hiroshima atomic bombs, a spokesman for the British government's Near Earth Object Information Center told BBC radio.

The Center issued the warning about the asteroid after the giant rock was first observed in New Mexico by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Program. "The Near Earth Object will be observable from Earth for the next two months and astronomers will continue to track it over this period," said Dr. Alan Fitzsimmons, one of the expert team advising the Center.

Asteroids such as 2003 QQ47 are chunks of rock left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Most are kept at a safe distance from the Earth in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

But the gravitational influence of giant planets such as Jupiter can nudge asteroids out of these safe orbits and send them plunging toward Earth.

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