Scientists at NASA recently detected a space rock the size of an Olympic swimming pool hurtling through the Solar System, reporting that the “city-killer” asteroid has a chance of colliding with Earth on February 14, 2046.
Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Washington, DC, are all potential impact zones for the Valentine’s Day space rock, dubbed 2023 DW. For reference, a “city-killer” asteroid is one large enough that if it were to impact Earth, it would cause severe damage.
Luckily, scientists maintain the odds of impact are quite small, estimating a one in 560 chance. It’s currently the only space rock NASA ranks as a 1 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale. The scale ranges from 0-10, with zero being no hazard and 10 being a certain collision “capable of causing global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it.”
As of now, the closest NASA expects the asteroid to get to Earth is 1.1 million miles. They did, however, admit that it will take several weeks of data collection to come to an accurate prediction of the asteroid’s orbit.
We’ve been tracking a new asteroid named 2023 DW that has a very small chance of impacting Earth in 2046. 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. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/SaLC0AUSdP— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) March 7, 2023
NASA Claims Large Asteroid Isn’t ‘Particularly Concerning’ for Earth
With a 164-foot (50-meter) diameter, the asteroid is currently at the number one spot on the European Space Agency’s “Risk List”. This unsettling list is comprised of asteroids and other space objects with a greater than zero probability of colliding with Earth.
That said, even if it did strike Earth, scientists say it wouldn’t have the doomsday effect of the Chicxulub asteroid, the 9-mile-wide space rock that collided with the planet, killing off most dinosaurs and three-quarters of the globe’s plant and animal species.
“This object is not particularly concerning,” JPL navigation engineer Davide Farnocchia told CNN.
That said, should the 2023 DW asteroid strike Earth, it would cause significant damage, especially if it landed on a major city or densely populated area.
Ten years ago, a meteor less than half the size of 2023 DW exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Even though it didn’t make impact, it still injured around 1,500 with the enormous shock wave that blew out windows and rattled an area of about 200 square miles.
Should the 2023 DW asteroid’s risk of impacting Earth increase, we won’t be without defense against the impact. Last year, NASA successfully changed the orbit of an asteroid with their DART mission. To do so, they slammed a spacecraft into the rock, sending it flying off course.
“That’s the very reason why we flew that mission,” Farnocchia said. “And that mission was a spectacular success.”