There’s been a slew of recent headlines claiming that an asteroid may collide with Earth right before Election Day. But in a tweet that comes via Space.com, NASA has now made it abundantly clear that the space rock poses zero threat to humanity. Not only is the asteroid unlikely to hit Earth, but the space agency says it’s small enough that it would burn up in our atmosphere anyway.
Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth! It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet’s atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size.— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) August 23, 2020
Although it’s not exactly clear how this bit of misinformation went viral, news outlet MLive says that it is based on a July 19 video from YouTuber, The Real BPEarthWatch. In the video, the YouTuber notes the asteroid passing by on November 2 will come within 300 miles of Earth. BPEarthWatch notes that NASA has also given the asteroid, dubbed 2018 VP1, a high uncertainty level regarding the path it’ll follow.
Despite the fact that 2018 VP1 may indeed come relatively close to Earth—it will actually only cruise by at a distance of 830 miles—there’s still nothing to worry about. As NASA notes, 2018 VP1 is only 6.5 feet in diameter, which is a few inches shorter than LeBron James. That means the asteroid would disintegrate in our planet’s atmosphere even if it did collide with Earth. (For reference, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs is pegged at, by some estimates, about 4,900 feet in diameter.)
While some objects to catch us off guard (re: Chelyabinsk meteor), 2018 VP1's trajectory has already been mapped and even if all we want is for an asteroid to end it all, it ain't gonna happen. Not this year, anyhow.— Katherine Troche (@kuiperkat) August 23, 2020
Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a series of misleading claims about space objects supposedly set to hit Earth. There was warning of asteroid impacts back in February and March of this year, but that was more bunk. Which raises the question: why do online outlets keep sounding false alarms over harmless asteroid near-misses? There’s already been enough fear passed around in 2020 to last a decade or two anyway.
Feature image: NASA / JPL-Caltech