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As the U.S. continues to express concern about the possibility of a North Korean missile test directed toward American territory and the rest of the world holds its breath over a close encounter with an asteroid, several U.S. air bases are on heightened alert.
But no one is talking about why.
The Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, which houses NORAD – charged with monitoring the North Korea situation – is now at “Bravo-Plus.”
Other air bases in Colorado, California and Florida are also on heightened alert status.
There are five levels of alert: normal, Alpha (low), Bravo (medium), Charlie (high) and Delta (critical). “Bravo-Plus” is slightly higher than a medium threat level.
The Bush administration has urged North Korea to abandon its plans to test a long range missile. The Pentagon believes the missile is capable of reaching the United States.
NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado would play a big role in both detecting and responding to a missile launch if it ever occurred.
The U.S. missile defense system is only a few years old, but could be tested if North Korea chooses to act.
Meanwhile, in a development that may or may not be related to the heightened security alert, an asteroid up to half a mile wide is due to brush past the Earth early today.
Scientists who have been tracking asteroid 2004 XP14 say it will approach almost as close as the Moon, traveling at 10.5 miles per second.
It has been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), along with 782 known others.
Initially there were concerns that the asteroid might collide with the Earth later this century. However, further analysis of its orbit has ruled this out – at least for the foreseeable future.
If XP14 did hit the Earth the effects would be devastating.
“It would probably be big enough to wipe out a small country,” said Dr David Asher, from the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland.
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