The European Space Agency said, on Tuesday, that the chances of a newly discovered asteroid colliding with Earth that could wipe out a city have declined on Valentine’s Day 2046.
The asteroid, named 2023 DW and estimated to be the size of a 50-meter Olympic swimming pool, was first spotted by a small Chilean observatory on February 26.
It quickly topped NASA and the European Space Agency’s lists of asteroids that pose a threat to Earth, leading to a host of troubling headlines, and some lovers warning against canceling their plans for Valentine’s Day on February 14, 2046.
Late last month, the asteroid had a one in 847 chance of hitting Earth — but the odds rose to one in 432 on Sunday, according to the European Space Agency’s hazard list.
But Richard Moesel, head of the European Space Agency’s Planetary Defense Office, told AFP Tuesday that overnight the probability had fallen to one in 1,584.
“It will now decrease with each note until it reaches zero in a couple of days at the latest,” he said.
Nobody should worry about this guy.
NASA on Tuesday lowered its odds of collision to one in 770, meaning there is a 99.87 percent chance that the asteroid will miss Earth.
“We tend to be a little more conservative, but there seems to be a distinct possibility now,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, told AFP.
He said it was normal for newly discovered asteroids to have a higher chance of colliding for a short time before a rapid fall.
He said this is because the new observations reduce the “zone of uncertainty” into which the asteroid moves at its closest point to Earth.
While Earth is still within this uncertainty zone, the odds temporarily increase — until more observations exclude Earth and the probability drops to zero, as is expected to happen with 2023 DW.
What if it hit the ground?
But what would happen if the asteroid hit Earth, which is increasingly unlikely?
A good comparison was the Tunguska event, in which an asteroid of similar size is thought to have exploded in the atmosphere over a sparsely populated region of Siberia in 1908, said David Farnokia, a scientist at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
“The resulting explosion destroyed trees in an area of about 2,000 square kilometres,” Farnocchia said. London covers an area of about 1,600 square kilometres.
Moissl said that an asteroid the size of 2023 DW would create “regional devastation” and would have little effect on the rest of the world.
The asteroid, which orbits the sun, came within about nine million kilometers of Earth during its closest approach on February 18 – a week before it was discovered.
If it were to hit Earth in 2046, it would be traveling at about 15 kilometers (nine miles) per second, according to estimates.
There would be about a 70 percent chance of landing in the Pacific Ocean, Moesel said, but the potential strike area would also include the United States, Australia or Southeast Asia.
Even if an asteroid hits our path, experts have confirmed that the world is no longer defenseless against such a threat.
Last year, NASA’s DART spacecraft deliberately collided with the pyramid-sized asteroid Dimorphos, sending it off course in the first such test of our planetary defenses.
Farnocchia said that “the DART mission gives us confidence that such a mission will succeed” against 2023 DW, if necessary.
Moesel said that with 23 years to prepare, there is “plenty of time” to plan for such a mission.
He added that the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, scheduled to launch next year to examine damage caused by DART on Dimorphos, could be reused for reconnaissance if needed.
Moesel said such plans will not be considered until the 1 in 100 probability of a collision has passed, when they attract the attention of UN-approved bodies such as the International Asteroid Warning Network and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG).
Moesel added that the goal of SMPAG was to “get everyone on the same page and avoid what happened in ‘Don’t Look Up’, where ‘dumb things’ happened because the countries didn’t coordinate with each other.”
However, it seems unlikely that these defense mechanisms will be required for 2023 DW.
“Everyone should relax, ignore the headlines and sensational stories, and watch how this situation plays out,” NASA’s Johnson said, adding that any threat would likely “evaporate” soon.
“However, the Planetary Defense Society will continue to search!”
© 2023 AFP
the quote: ‘Not to Worry’: Odds of a Newly Found Asteroid Will Hit Earth (2023, March 14) Retrieved March 14, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-odds-newly-found -asteroid-earth.html
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