According to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, a recently discovered asteroid about the size of an Olympic swimming pool has a “small chance” of hitting Earth in 23 years with a possible impact on Valentine’s Day in 2046.
According to data projections from the European Space Agency, the asteroid has a 1 in 625 chance of hitting Earth, though NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Sentry system estimated the chances to be closer to 1 in 560. The latter keeps an eye out for possible impacts with celestial bodies.
However, the space rock, known as 2023 DW, is the only one on NASA’s danger list that receives a Torino Impact Hazard Scale rating of 1 out of 10, which is a scale used to classify the likelihood of an object colliding with Earth. On the Torino scale, all other items are ranked as 0.
Although the 2023 DW is at the top of the list, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory states that its ranking of 1 only means that “the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public attention or public concern,” whereas a ranking of 0 means that “the likelihood of a collision is zero, or is so low as to be effectively zero.”
“This object is not particularly concerning,” said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA officials have warned that the odds of impact could be dramatically altered as more observations of 2023 DW are collected and additional analysis is performed.
“Often when new objects are first discovered,” NASA Asteroid Watch noted Tuesday on Twitter, “it takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits years into the future.”
Risk of asteroid impact
Newly found asteroids frequently appear more dangerous at first glance.
The Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory writes on its website that because orbits resulting from very small observation sets are more uncertain, it is more probable that such orbits will “permit” future impacts.
Most often, the threat associated with a specific object will decrease as additional observations become available.NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies
“However, such early predictions can often be ruled out as we incorporate more observations and reduce the uncertainties in the object’s orbit,” it reads. “Most often, the threat associated with a specific object will decrease as additional observations become available.”
Due to the asteroid’s close proximity to the moon, fresh data may not be available for several days. The most recent full moon was two days ago, and it is still visible in the sky and is bright and large, making it probable that 2023 DW is not immediately visible.
However, he continued, “the object will then stay observable for weeks—or months with larger telescopes—so we can get as many observations as we need.
According to NASA statistics, the asteroid has a diameter of about 50 meters (160 feet). The closest expected landing of 2023 DW on Earth will occur on February 14, 2046, and there will be nine other predicted close approaches between 2047 and 2054. According to NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids webpage, the asteroid will approach Earth at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers).
On February 2, we first noticed the space object in the sky.
It orbits the solar once every 271 days, moving at a speed of about 15.5 miles per second (25 kilometers per second), more than 11 million miles (18 million kilometers) away from Earth.
Farnocchia cited the accomplishment of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in September 2022 as proof that humans can be ready to face space rocks traveling in possibly disastrous directions. In order to alter a spacecraft’s course, DART purposefully collided it with an asteroid.
That’s the main reason we carried out that operation, which was a resounding success, he said.