Nasa tracks newly discovered asteroid that could hit Earth in 2046

The 2023DW asteroid is currently at a distance of about 18 million km away from Earth

Vishwam Sankaran
Friday 10 March 2023 14:11 GMT
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There is a 1-in-625 chance that an Olympic swimming pool-sized asteroid can strike Earth on Valentine’s Day in 2046, according to an estimate by the European Space Agency.

The asteroid, known as 2023DW and discovered on 27 February, however, may likely miss the planet on 14 February that year.

Scientists, including those from the European Space Agency’s Near Earth Objects Coordination Center, are still estimating the space rock’s size, shape and orbital characteristics to determine if it is a real threat.

It is currently estimated to be about the size of an Olympic swimming pool and is at a distance of 0.12 astronomical units (AU), or about 18 million km (over 11 million miles) from Earth.

“We’ve been tracking a new asteroid named 2023 DW that has a very small chance of impacting Earth in 2046,” Nasa’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office tweeted on Wednesday.

“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,” it added.

The asteroid, measuring about 50m in diameter, may not strike a blow to the planet as big as the space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, which was several miles in diameter.

However in comparison, the space rock that struck Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia in 2013 was about 18m in size and its air burst led to extensive ground damage, including damage to buildings and multiple injuries.

Nasa and several international organisations working on planetary defense have been working on ways to protect the planet from possible collisions with space rocks.

Last year, Nasa made history by slamming its Dart misson spacecraft into an asteroid, marking the first time the course of a heavenly body was altered by life on Earth.

In a recent scientific breakthrough, amateur astronomers helped Nasa confirm the aftermath of the Dart mission.

Observing the behaviour of the asteroid after the impact, researchers found the planet could be saved from similar potential deadly space rocks.

They said redirecting asteroids with such spacecraft collision “is a viable technique to potentially defend Earth if necessary”.

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