Asteroid in September Not as Dangerous as Dinosaur Killer
Sixty-six million years ago, a 6-mile-wide asteroid smashed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico. Red-hot debris blasted into the atmosphere and fell back to Earth, causing planet-wide fires. After that, dust and soot filled the air for years, blocking most of the sunlight from the surface of the planet. The net result is that about 75% of life on Earth, including all dinosaurs, went extinct.
On Sept. 9 this year, asteroid 2006 QV89 will come calling. While its size, a mere 130 feet across, makes it far less dangerous than the dinosaur killer, if it hit a major city, it certainly would destroy most or all of it and kill perhaps millions of people. But you probably don’t need to worry too much. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) estimates there is only a 1 in 7,299 chance it will strike Earth. Their best estimate is that it will miss Earth by more than 4 million miles. That’s more than 16 times the moon’s distance from us.
ESA keeps a tally of known asteroids that pose a collision risk with Earth. You can find it at http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page. While this 1 in 7,300 risk isn’t very high, an asteroid designated 2010 RF12 poses a 1 in 16 chance of collision with Earth on Sept. 5, 2095. While that asteroid is less than 35 feet across, it will create a spectacular sight if it does enter our atmosphere, and it still could cause considerable damage.
No other known asteroid poses a significant risk in the near future, so this upcoming near-miss will be our closest dance with asteroid destruction for a while.
Until the next asteroid with a high collision risk is discovered.