WASHINGTON — Valentine’s Day in 2046 could wind up being the most romantic one of all-time — for all the wrong reasons. Scientists at NASA warn an asteroid will be buzzing by Earth, raising eyebrows among folks predicting the end of the world.
NASA’s Asteroid Watch on Twitter announced they are keeping an eye on the newly-discovered space rock that could potentially smash into our planet. They’ve pinpointed February 14, 2046 as the likely closest approach.
“We’ve been tracking a new asteroid named 2023 DW that has a very small chance of impacting Earth in 2046,” the tweet explains. “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. Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update predictions as more data comes in.”
We've been tracking a new asteroid named 2023 DW that has a very small chance of impacting Earth in 2046. 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. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/SaLC0AUSdP
— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) March 7, 2023
Could asteroid 2023 DW really end the world?
The space agency says the asteroid has an average diameter of 49m and is currently 0.12 astronomical unit (au) — or 11 billion miles 0- from Earth. One au (astronomical unit) is approximately the average distance between the Earth and the Sun.
However, if the asteroid does hit it would not likely cause a global catastrophe.
In 1908, a similarly-sized asteroid of about 50–60 meters (160–200 ft) exploded over a sparsely populated Eastern Siberian forest. It caused a 12-megaton explosion that flattened an estimated 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 km2 (830 sq mi). Eyewitness reports suggest that at least three people may have died in the event.
On a larger scale, the asteroid thought to have wiped out dinosaurs was believed to have been between 10 and 15 kilometers wide. The impact site, known as the Chicxulub crater, is centred on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
In September 2022, NASA crashed the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft into the Dimorphos asteroid. The mission aim was to test a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects (NEOs) and assess how much a spacecraft impact deflects an asteroid through its transfer of momentum when hitting the asteroid head-on.
A live simulation of asteroid 2023 DW’s predicted path is streaming on NASA’s Eyes On Asteroids.
South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.