Valentine’s Day 2046 could be memorable for a number of reasons. Not only might you receive a card from an admirer you never knew you had, but you might also witness a large asteroid slamming into Earth and causing widespread devastation.
Hopefully the only delivery anyone will be getting that day is a card, but scientists say that a 49-meter-wide asteroid discovered last week is currently calculated to have a 1-in-625 chance of hitting our planet in a couple of decades from now.
The rock, called 2023 DW, now sits atop the European Space Agency’s Risk List as the only one with a “1” rating on the Torino scale, which is used for categorizing the impact hazard of near-Earth objects.
However, experts are saying reassuringly that 2023 DW only has a “very small chance” of impacting our planet.
The analysis comes from the European Space Agency’s Near Earth Objects Coordination Centre, which searches deep space for rocks that could be hazardous to Earth.
As asteroid 2023 DW was only discovered a few days ago, scientists are continuing with their analysis to determine more precisely the characteristics of the rock, which is similar in size to an Olympic swimming pool.
“We’ve been tracking a new asteroid named 2023 DW that has a very small chance of impacting Earth in 2046,” NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted this week. “Often when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits years into the future.”
It added: “Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update predictions as more data comes in.”
If later analysis suggests an increased risk of 2023 DW crashing into Earth, it would be a golden opportunity for NASA to deploy its asteroid deflection system. The technology was tested last year with great success when it smashed a spacecraft into a distant asteroid, with the force of the impact altering the rock’s course.
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