NASA is monitoring an asteroid that could collide with Earth on Valentine’s Day in 2046

Out of the millions of asteroids in our solar system, a very small fraction are known to potentially impact Earth. But researchers found a new one just two weeks ago that, so far, appears to pose one of the biggest risks of them all.

The asteroid, known as 2023 DW, was first discovered on February 26, according to the European Space Agency. It’s now been added to the agency’s Risk List, a catalog of space objects that could potentially have some kind of impact on Earth, and because of what scientists have seen so far — it’s currently No. 1 on the list.

But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean catastrophic damage is imminent.

2023 DW has a Torino Scale ranking of 1, meaning it is currently predicted to pose “no unusual hazard level,” according to the scale. Scientists believe it has a diameter of about 50 meters – about as long as an Olympic-sized swimming pool – but said “size uncertainty could be large.”

“Current calculations show that the chance of collision is extremely unlikely without any cause for public attention or public concern,” the ranking categorization said. All the other 1,448 asteroids on the risk list have a scale position of 0.

ESA currently estimates that the asteroid has a 1 in 607 chance of hitting Earth.

The fastest the asteroid would potentially impact Earth is no more than two decades. According to the European Space Agency, the 2023 DW is predicted to impact the planet on Valentine’s Day 2046. It also has the potential to impact Valentines after that — from 2047 to 2051, according to the risk list.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office says it has tracked the asteroid and that its risk of impacting Earth in 2046 remains “very small.”

“Often, when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce uncertainty and adequately predict their orbits years into the future,” the office tweeted. “Orbital analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update predictions as more data comes in.”

Astronomer Piero Sicoli said he believes there is about a “1 in 400 chance” that the asteroid will actually make an impact.

“This possibility will surely be ruled out soon,” he tweeted last week. “But as an exercise, I calculated where the asteroid might fall if this possibility arose.”

A map of his calculations – which could change over time – shows that if it were to collide with Earth, it could fall anywhere between the Indian Ocean to just off the US East Coast.

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