Swimming Pool

NASA lowers the likelihood of an asteroid impact on Valentine’s Day 2046

NASA just shared an update on 2023 DW, the asteroid it thinks could hit Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046 — and that’s great news.

Eyes on Asteroids: Our solar system contains millions of asteroids, and while most will never get close to Earth, an impact from an asteroid 460 feet wide or more could level a city. As we know from the dinosaurs, a Really A large asteroid hitting our planet could cause an extinction event.

Luckily, unlike dinosaurs, we can spot incoming asteroids, sometimes long before they reach us, and NASA’s DART mission proved that we can even change an asteroid’s trajectory if need be – hugely reassuring news.

A really big asteroid hitting our planet could cause an extinction event

The threat: On March 7th, NASA tweeted that it was tracking 2023 DW, a newly discovered asteroid some 13.7 million miles away, as it had a “very slim chance” of hitting Earth on February 14, 2046.

Given its average diameter of 165 feet (roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool), this asteroid probably wouldn’t destroy a city – should you be unfortunate enough to be in its path – but it could cause serious destruction. When a similarly large asteroid exploded over Siberia in 1908, it destroyed more than 80 million trees.

what’s new NASA promised to continue monitoring 2023 DW and provide updates as they become available, and within a week they had good news to announce: They reduced the chance of an impact from 1 in 560 to 1 in 770 – the asteroid now only has 0.13% chance of hitting Earth.

“We tend to be a bit more conservative, but there definitely seems to be a downtrend in probability now,” NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told AFP on March 14.

“No one needs to worry about this guy.”

Richard Moessl

The European Space Agency (ESA) is even less concerned about DW in 2023 — it has lowered its estimated chance of an impact from a recent high of 1 in 432 to 1 in 1,584, giving the space rock just a 0.063% chance of hitting it to reach earth’s surface.

“It will now decrease with each observation until it reaches zero in a few days at the latest,” Richard Moissl, head of ESA’s Planetary Defense Office, told AFP. “No one needs to worry about this guy.”

The bottom line: DART has proven that it is possible to deflect an asteroid with a kinetic impact, which is a more scientific way of saying “bang something into it”.

A large asteroid would need to have a better than 1 in 100 chance of hitting before the space community would consider deploying such a mission to reroute it, and based on the newly announced odds, that won’t be necessary by 2023, according to DW.

“Everyone should relax, ignore the sensational headlines and stories and watch how this situation unfolds,” Johnson said. “Nonetheless, the planetary defense community will continue to look up!”

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