Space experts this week warned of an Olympic swimming pool-sized space rock that could hit Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046 – but how many others are there?
The good news is that it’s not yet time to head for the Doomsday bunkers – the Valentine’s Day asteroid (2023 DW) has quickly received less of a chance to hit Earth.
But there are several asteroids likely to hit Earth in the coming centuries – although space agencies around the world are watching them closely.
Scroll down to learn more about the six asteroids:
NASA also conducted a successful experiment where a small spacecraft deflected a space rock by hitting it.
The good news is that very large asteroids – the type that killed the dinosaurs – are being monitored, and all have been deemed “extremely unlikely” to hit Earth.
NASA says more than 100 tonnes of rock particles hit Earth every day – but football-field-sized asteroids only hit every 2,000 years.
Civilization-ending asteroids only collide with our planet once every few million years – and all rocks this size are closely watched.
So the rocks most likely to hit Earth will likely burn up in the atmosphere or cause minimal damage – rather than being the beloved end-of-civilization impact of Hollywood movies.
Smaller rocks can have an impact, however: the Chelyabinsk meteor that injured 1,500 in 2013 when it exploded over Russia was just 59 feet in diameter.
During the Chelyabinsk event in 2013, 1,500 people were injured and 7,300 buildings damaged by the intense overpressure generated by the shock wave on the surface of the Earth.
NASA and other space agencies are keeping a close eye on “potentially hazardous asteroids”.
Asteroids are rated by their probability of impacting Earth on three scales – the Torino scale, a graph of one to ten from 0 (will not hit Earth) to 10 (will hit Earth and be catastrophic) .
Currently, no asteroid is ranked above one.
The associated Palermo Scale is used by scientists to rank risk over a longer time frame – and NASA’s Sentry Risk table ranks asteroids by their risk of hitting Earth.
First sightings of asteroids tend to be brief, and as scientists get more data, the likelihood of an impact decreases.
Chances of impact? One in 1,584
Date of Potential Impact: February 14, 2046
Experts warned this week that the 160ft asteroid could cause an explosion similar to the Tunguska event, which flattened more than 80 million trees.
But the odds of the boulder hitting Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046 have since been drastically reduced.
Richard Moissl, head of ESA’s planetary defense office, reduced the odds of the asteroid hitting Earth from one in 784 to one in 1,584.
Moissi said: “It will now decrease with each observation until it reaches zero in a few days at the latest.” Nobody has to worry about this guy.
Chances of impact? One in 2,700
Potential Impact Date: September 24, 2182
Bennu could hit Earth in the second half of the next century (NASA)
Bennu is very slightly wider than the height of the Empire State Building in New York and was visited by NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft in 2020, which collected material from its surface.
Bennu is over 4.5 billion years old – and scientists estimate it has a 1 in 2,700 chance of impacting Earth by the end of the 22nd century.
Professor Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona has previously said an impact with Bennu would release “three times more energy than any nuclear weapon that has been detonated in history”.
“The impact would release energy equivalent to 1,450 megatons of TNT.”
“For comparison, fission bombs used in World War II had an energy release of about 20 kilotons of TNT each and the most powerful nuclear weapon ever exploded, the Russian Tsar Bomba, had a yield of 50 megatons.”
Chances of impact? One in 10
Potential Impact Date: September 5, 2095
Instead of hitting the ground, this asteroid will likely explode in a ball of fire (stock image) experts suggest
This asteroid is ranked as the most likely to hit our planet in the next century, with a one in ten chance of hitting Earth – but don’t worry, it’s quite small.
The space rock is expected to arrive just before the end of this century, but is believed to be around 21 feet in diameter.
So, rather than hitting the surface, it will likely explode in a huge burst of air in the upper atmosphere, with the only thing reaching the ground being pebbles.
Name: 1950 AD
Chances of impact? One in 34,000
Potential Impact Date: March 16, 2880
This half-mile-wide asteroid has a pretty high chance of hitting Earth, with a one in 34,000 chance.
It’s also been given a high risk ranking due to its size – but it won’t arrive for another eight centuries.
First spotted in 1950, hence its name, it has since been observed around the turn of the millennium.
In 2032, it will make a fairly close pass, at 6,959,357 miles, which will allow other observations.
NASA points out that we have 35 generations to deal with the problem.
NASA says: “If it is finally decided that 1950 DA should be hijacked, the hundreds of years of warning could allow for a method as simple as sprinkling the surface of the asteroid with chalk or charcoal. , or maybe white glass beads, or to send a solar-powered spacecraft that eventually collapses its reflective sail around the asteroid.
“These things would change the reflectivity of the asteroids and allow sunlight to do the job of pushing the asteroid out of the way.”
Chances of impact? N / A
Potential Impact Date: 2562
The huge asteroid sparked fear in 2004, but won’t be back for quite a while (NASA)
Toutatis won’t return near Earth for some time (NASA)
This huge asteroid is three miles wide and swept close to Earth in 2004, passing four times the distance from Earth to the Moon – and sparking a wave of unwarranted predictions of doom.
It won’t make another close pass like this until 2562, NASA predicts.
NASA says, “Due to an extensive set of optical and radar observations, Toutatis’ orbit is one of the best determined of any asteroid and there is no chance of this object colliding with the Earth at this meeting – or any other meeting for at least five centuries.