Nasa has warned about the dangers of asteroids in the future – but not this one
The world has been sent into panic by reports that a huge asteroid could hit this year.
But those reports rather overestimate the chance that it will actually reach us.
A variety of news reports published over the last few days suggest that we are about to collide with a piece of space rock that could wreak havoc on the Earth.
Many of them make reference to warnings from space agencies that suggest they are heading off to hide in a bunker.
“Football field-sized asteroid could hit Earth this year,” read one of the headlines.
Another was even more dramatic, claiming “Huge 164-foot asteroid could crash into Earth THIS YEAR at 27,400mph and ‘flatten area bigger than London’, space agency warns”.
Neither are strictly wrong: the asteroid could hit. But the chances of it doing so are miniscule, with the chances of an actual collision put at less than one in 7,000 by the European Space Agency.
Various reports also noted that the ESA classes the asteroid 2006 QV89 as the fourth most dangerous object on a list of possible asteroids. That ranking takes the near-Earth objects that have a non-zero possibility of colliding with Earth.
But what they didn’t note was that none of those top 10 are actually expected to crash into Earth. While the table is known as the “risk list”, the actual amount of risk that any of them will hit is very low.
It’s not clear why the panic has been whipped up about this asteroid now. It is currently far away from Earth, and if it were to hit wouldn’t arrive until September.
Even when it does arrive, it will almost certainly pass by the Earth at a distance of many millions of miles.
While news reports of asteroids that are about to hit Earth are almost always overblown, there remains significant danger that life could be affected by space rocks that will fly past or into us. Nasa is working to prepare its defences against a possible collision – and in a practise run-through last month failed to protect New York from being destroyed.