In case you weren’t aware, a 430ft asteroid is currently hurtling towards earth. And it’s expected to approach earth tomorrow.
But don’t go selling all your belongings and living like you’re dying just yet. The asteroid isn’t going to cause an apocalyptic event. The space rock is only expected to make a “close approach” (phew!).
But until 2016, the asteroid—dubbed 1994 WR12—was actually classified as an ‘Earth Impact Risk’ by the JPL Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS). And that’s a little scary to imagine. Because until now, we didn’t even know the asteroid existed.
And to make the whole thing even more chilling, Astronomers said that if 1994 WR12 were to make an impact, it would produce an explosion 1.5 times more powerful than the Tsar Bomba, which is the biggest nuclear weapon that’s ever been tested.
But luckily, we won’t have to witness such a catastrophe. Nasa is predicting that 1994 WR12 will only come within 3.8 million miles of Earth, which sounds like a pretty safe distance to us.
NASA claims that a “close approach” space rock isn’t uncommon. And it added that “close” is a relative term.
“As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth,” the administration said.“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers.”
And “because of the ongoing search efforts to find nearly all the large NEOs,” near our galaxy, we’ll probably see asteroids making headlines more often. However, we shouldn’t worry when we do.
“Given the extremely unlikely nature of such a collision, almost all of these predictions will turn out to be false alarms,” NASA assured.
It is inevitable that one of the space rocks out there will come within a dangerous distance one day though. And if they do, NASA will have plenty of warning. Astronomers will likely notice the asteroid several years in advance.
And because that threat is looming, NASA launched its first DART mission last week.
NASA Sends a Rocket to Collide with Asteroid During DART Mission
On November 24th, NASA launched its first Double Asteroid Redirection Test—or DART—in an attempt to save Earth from a future Deep Impact event.
The $325 spacecraft shot into orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. And it will spend nearly a year traveling to an asteroid system more than 6.5 million miles away from Earth. The craft will eventually collide with a rock measuring 525 feet across that orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos.
None of the space rocks in the system pose a threat to Earth. However, the Didymos system serves as the “perfect testing ground” for whether a spacecraft can effectively redirect an asteroid.
That way, if an asteroid targets our planet in the future, we will be able to direct the rock away from our planet. And, you know, safe mankind from extinction.