Asteroid feared to hit Earth in 2046 will almost certainly miss, NASA says

On Valentine's Day 2046, an asteroid that was originally predicted to have a 1-in-600 chance of destroying an entire metropolis will almost certainly pass by without causing any damage.

According to NASA, the recently discovered asteroid that had been assigned a 1-in-600 chance of colliding with Earth on Valentine's Day 2046 is now extremely unlikely to do so.

The "2023 DW" asteroid, which was discovered for the first time on February 27, has a circumference of about 165 feet (50 meters), or approximately the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The threat posed by the asteroid sparked a flurry of news coverage, warning readers to reconsider any romantic plans they had made for the year 2046. NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office initially gave the threat posed by the asteroid a slim but possible chance of a direct impact. According to a new assessment from NASA, the asteroid's odds of striking Earth are now around 1-in-770, which means it has a 99.87% chance of avoiding us. The chances of an impact have been reduced from a 1-in-625 possibility to roughly 1-in-1,584 by the Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre of the European Space Agency (ESA).

According to Richard Moissl, director of the ESA's planetary defense office, "it will go down now with every measurement until it hits zero in a couple of days at the latest," Agence France-Presse  reported on Tuesday (Mar. 14). "This person is nothing to worry about,"

About 28,000 asteroids are tracked by NASA using the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), a network of four telescopes that can survey the complete night sky once every 24 hours. Any space object that comes within 120 million miles (193 million kilometers) of Earth is designated as a "near-Earth object" by the space agency, and any large object that comes within 4.65 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) of our planet is categorized as "potentially hazardous" by the same organization.

All of these near-Earth objects' projected paths through the end of the century have been calculated by NASA. According to NASA, there is no known threat to Earth from an end-of-the-world meteor impact for at least the next 100 years (opens in new tab).

If DW did collide with Earth in 2023, it wouldn't be as catastrophic as the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago and had a diameter of 7.5 miles (12 km). This does not, however, imply that lesser asteroids of its magnitude are not hazardous. A bowling ball-sized meteor that detonated over Vermont in March 2021, for instance, had the explosive power of 440 pounds (200 kilos) of TNT. Even more dramatically, in 2013, a 59-foot-wide (18-meter) meteor above Chelyabinsk, Russia, exploded, producing an explosion that wounded about 1,500 people and produced an explosion equivalent to 400 to 500 kilotons of TNT, or 26 to 33 times the energy unleashed by the Hiroshima weapon.

Space organizations from all over the world are already examining potential strategies to divert a potentially hazardous asteroid if one were to ever approach us. The non-hazardous asteroid Dimorphos was rammed off path on September 26 by the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, changing the asteroid's trajectory by 32 minutes. This was the first demonstration of the Earth's planetary defense system. Since then, NASA has hailed the operation as a complete triumph.

Asteroid-redirect mission may already be in the early phases of preparation, according to China. The nation plans to launch 23 Long March 5 rockets at the asteroid Bennu in an effort to divert it from a possibly disastrous collision with Earth between the years 2175 and 2199. Bennu will pass within 4.6 million miles (7.4 million km) of Earth's orbit.