What NASA Predicts About Meteors From Comets/Asteroid Belt Hitting Earth
2017 predictions news reports are already claiming an asteroid Earth impact is “possible” with multiple candidates being suggested for a 2017 meteor hitting the Earth. So far, a comet-Earth impact scenario is unlikely, but asteroid 2012 TC4 is commonly reported to be a candidate for an Earth collision course. But is the scientific community even worried anymore about the threat posed by this Earth-asteroid impact in 2017?
NASA has tried telling everyone not to be concerned about meteors from a comet or asteroid showering down on us, but so far there are many conspiracy theories hovering around on the internet. To put these asteroid predictions for 2017 into perspective, some predicted the end the of the world would happen back in September of 2015, when a killer asteroid was supposed to coincide with the Blood Moon prophecies. Other failed 2016 predictions included Pastor Ricardo Salazar, from the Global Church of the King of Israel, in Tokyo, Japan, who claimed that a “murderous” asteroid would strike the world back in May 2016, in order to bring about doomsday prophecies related to the Anti-Christ.
“One of the major threats to intelligent life in our universe is the high probability of an asteroid colliding with inhabited planets,” Hawking said in November of 2016. “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next 1,000 or 10,000 years. By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”
For years scientists have maintained a NASA asteroid impact risk table that lists all of the potential near-Earth objects that may be of concern. The table lists the years in which an asteroid may be in range of Earth and although the list of 2017 asteroids is fairly long (25 asteroid threats counted as of December 5, 2016) the good news is that the Torino Impact Hazard Scale is a long list of zeroes, meaning that NASA feels “likelihood of a collision is zero, or is so low as to be effectively zero.” In addition, 19 out of 25 asteroids have an estimated diameter of 50 meters or less, making the end of world an unlikely 2017 prediction.
NASA does take the potential for a 2017 asteroid impact quite seriously and as such a hypothetical asteroid impact scenario will be discussed at the 2017 IAA Planetary Defense Conference (PDC), to be held in Tokyo, Japan, May 15-19, 2017. The goal for this fictional scenario is for scientists to discuss how to deal with the eventuality of a 100 to 250 meter meteor coming within 0.05 AU (Astronomical Unit) of the Earth (or within 4,647,790.35 miles of our planet).
Predictions For 2017: Asteroid 2013 TX68
Back in February of 2016, it was predicted that there was a small chance Asteroid 2013 TX68 could hit the Earth in early March. Obviously, this event did not take place, but scientists at NASA’s Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) believed there was an “extremely remote chance” that asteroid 2013 TX68 could impact on September 28, 2017.
“The possibilities of collision on any of the three future flyby dates are far too small to be of any real concern,” said Paul Chodas, manager of CNEOS, at the time. “I fully expect any future observations to reduce the probability even more.”
The odds were listed as 1 in 250 million, but even then this Earth asteroid impact would hardly be Armageddon. Asteroid 2013 TX68 is estimated to be about 100 feet across and it has enough impact energy to create a crater that’s between a football field and a third of a mile in diameter. The good news is that the potential impact date for Asteroid 2013 TX68 was removed from the Sentry Risk Table on NASA’s Near Earth Object Program website so it seems we can safely make a 2017 prediction that we should not be too worried come September 28, 2017. The close-approach data suggests the next time Asteroid 2013 TX68 swings by it will be 2056.
Predictions For 2017: Asteroid 2012 TC4
Most of the 2017 predictions related to asteroid impacts on Earth focus on what may happen on October 12, 2017. The house-sized asteroid was first discovered in 2012 (hence the name), but in 2015 some scientists openly stated that Asteroid 2012 TC4 was “something to keep an eye on.”
To put things into perspective, the Russian meteor that air-bursted over the city of Chelyabinsk in February of 2013 injured 1,500 people and damaged over 7,000 buildings. That meteor was about 20 meters wide while NASA’s Earth Impact Risk Summary for Asteroid 2012 TC4 lists it at about 15 meters. The kinetic energy at impact is also listed as 97 kilotons (9.7e-02 MT), which is more than six times the explosive power of the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Should we be worried? Back in 2015, Judit Györgyey-Ries, astronomer at the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory, told astrowatch.net that Asteroid 2012 TC4 was a “possible impactor” with “a 0.00055% cumulative chance that it will hit”. Most experts including NASA’s Asteroid Watch seemed to believe there was little to no chance that Asteroid 2012 TC4 posed a threat to Earth in 2017 although Györgyey-Ries admitted that “more observations could help to reduce the uncertainties.”
When some news reports seemed to indicate that a 2017 impact was very possible based upon her words, Györgyey-Ries was interviewed again by astrowatch.net in order to clear up any confusion.
“According to the calculation of the JPL NEO [Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Near-Earth Object] office there is zero chance that the asteroid will hit in 2017. There will be a very close encounter on Oct. 12, 2017 (Universal Time date), when the distance between the center of the Earth and the asteroid is only 0.0009624 AU, that is 14,398 km. It is close, but still a miss,” she explained. “[T]he possible collisions are between 2020 and 2026. Whether it happens at all, or when will it happen depends on the exact circumstances of the flyby in 2017.”
Györgyey-Ries went on to explain that the “probabilities are very low” for all of the potential impactors in the coming years. The lone exception was Asteroid 2010 RF12, but the next estimated impact date is in 2095, it’s only seven meters across, and as such “it will disintegrate in the upper atmosphere without bothering anybody.”
Similar to Asteroid 2013 TX68, good news is no news. There haven’t been any press updates on Asteroid 2012 TC4 since 2015. In fact, the Sentry Risk Table currently lists the next potential Earth impact date as October 11, 2020, not 2017, which agrees with what Györgyey stated back in 2015. These old 2017 predictions have fortunately failed to come to fruition although NASA will continue monitoring throughout 2017. After all, a doomsday meteor from the asteroid belt could be lurking over the horizon….