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Newly discovered asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool has a ‘small chance’ to collide with Earth in 23 years, with a potential impact on Valentine’s Day in 2046, according to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
The asteroid has a 1 in 625 chance of hitting Earth, based on European Space Agency data projections, although NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sentry system calculated the odds closer to 1 in 560. The latter tracks potential collisions with celestial objects.
But space rock – named 2023 DW – is the only object on NASA’s risk list that ranks 1 out of 10 on the Turin Impact Risk Scale, a measure to categorize the projected risk of an object colliding with Earth. All other objects rank 0 on the Turin scale.
Although the 2023 DW is at the top of the list, its ranking of 1 only means that “risk of collision is extremely unlikely without cause for public attention or concern”, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, while a ranking of 0 means the “probability of a collision is zero, or so low that it is effectively zero.
“This object is not of particular concern”, said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
NASA officials have warned that the odds of impact could change significantly as more observations of 2023 DW are collected and additional analyzes are performed.
“Often, when new objects are discovered for the first time”, NASA asteroid watch noted on Twitter on Tuesday, “it takes several weeks of data to reduce uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits in the coming years.”
It is common for newly discovered asteroids to appear more threatening when first observed.
“Because orbits from very limited sets of observations are more uncertain, it is more likely that such orbits will ‘enable’ future impacts,” notes the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on its website.
“However, such early predictions can often be ruled out as we incorporate more observations and reduce uncertainties in the object’s orbit,” it reads. “Most often, the threat associated with a specific object will decrease as more observations become available.”
It may be a few days before new data can be collected due to the asteroid’s proximity to the Moon, Farnocchia noted in an email to CNN. The last full moon That was two days ago, and it still appears bright and large in the sky, likely obscuring 2023 DW from immediate observation, he said.
“But then the object will remain observable for weeks (even months with larger telescopes) so that we can get many observations as needed,” he added.
The asteroid is about 160 feet (about 50 meters) in diameter, according to NASA data. As 2023 DW orbits the sun, it has predicted 10 close approaches to Earth, with the closest touchdown on February 14, 2046, and nine more between 2047 and 2054. The closest the asteroid is expected to travel to Earth is about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids website notes.
The space rock was first spotted in our skies on February 2.
It travels about 15.5 miles per second (25 kilometers per second) at a distance of more than 11 million miles (18 million kilometers) from Earth, making a loop around the sun every 271 days.
Farnocchia noted the success of NASA’s DART mission, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, in September 2022 as proof that humanity can be prepared to face space rocks on potentially disastrous courses. DART intentionally collided a spacecraft with an asteroid to alter its trajectory.
“That’s the very reason we carried out this mission,” he said, “and this mission was a spectacular success.”