Keira Knightley stars in 'Seeking a Friend For the End of the World,' a story about the final days before an asteroid collides with Earth.
Like the poor Earthlings whose impending doom the genre chronicles, the asteroid disaster movie could be on its last legs.
That may not be immediately apparent, since a new killer-asteroid film, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," opens at theaters nationwide Friday (June 22). But scientists are making so much progress finding and tracking big, dangerous space rocks that a surprise civilization-threatening impact is becoming less and less realistic.
It's highly unlikely, for example, that a 6-mile-wide (10-kilometer) near-Earth asteroid — the size of the space rock thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago — lurks out there undiscovered, researchers say.
"We know everything out there that is that big, and there is just nothing right now that's in an orbit that's any threat toward the Earth," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near Earth Object Observation Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. [Photos: Scenes from 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World']
Asteroids much smaller than the dino-killer could still inflict catastrophic damage if they slammed into Earth. In general, scientists think a strike by anything at least 0.6 miles (1 km) wide could have global consequences — most likely by altering the world's climate for years to come.
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