Of the millions of asteroids in our solar system, only a very small fraction are known to potentially impact Earth. But scientists discovered a new one just two weeks ago and so far it seems to be one of the biggest dangers of them all.
The asteroid, known as 2023 DW, was only discovered for the first time on February 26, according to European Space Agency. It has now been added to the agency Risk lista catalog of space objects that could have some kind of impact on Earth, and because of what scientists have seen so far – the ranking is currently at number one on the list.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean catastrophic damage is imminent.
2023 DW has Turin scale ranking out of 1, which means it is currently expected not to pose an “extraordinary level of risk,” according to the scale. The researchers believe it is about 50 meters in diameter – the length of an Olympic swimming pool – but said the “magnitude uncertainty could be significant”.
“Current calculations show that the chance of collision is extremely unlikely with no cause for public interest or concern,” the taxonomic rating states. All of the other 1,448 asteroids on the hazard list have a rating on a scale of 0.
The European Space Agency currently estimates that the asteroid has a 1 in 607 chance of impacting Earth.
The earliest an asteroid could hit Earth is no more than two decades away. According to the European Space Agency, DW 2023 is expected to impact the planet on Valentine’s Day 2046. It’s also likely to affect Valentine’s Days thereafter — from 2047 to 2051, according to the risk list.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office says it has been tracking the asteroid and that the risk of it colliding with Earth in 2046 remains “extremely small”.
“Often when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits for years into the future,” the office wrote on Twitter. “Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update forecasts as more data comes in.”
Astronomer Piero Ciccoli said he believes there is a “one in 400 chance” that the asteroid will actually have an impact.
“Surely this possibility will be ruled out soon,” he wrote on Twitter last week. “However, as an exercise, I calculated where the asteroid might fall if that possibility occurred.”
His calculations map—which can change over time—show that if it hit land, it could fall anywhere between the Indian Ocean to the east coast of the United States.
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