Asteroids hitting Earth might be the most 2020 thing that’s happened so far this year and that’s really saying something. We’ve had pandemics, murder hornets, contested elections, lockdowns, hurricanes, wildfires, really you name it and it’s happened this year. Could it get worse? You bet it can. The unparalleled Neil deGrasse Tyson recently tweeted that on November 2 an asteroid (2018VP1 for those keeping track) could possibly make contact with Earth, just 24 hours before the election.
According to Tyson, and plenty of others, the asteroid, which is six feet in diameter, is heading on a trajectory towards Earth at about 25,000 miles per hour. That’s enough to cause at least moderate alarm seeing as how Earth hasn’t had all that fantastic a history of space rocks slamming into the ground.
That being said, scientists (Tyson included) aren’t all that concerned at this point even if it did stay on the proverbial collision course with Earth. For starters, many calculate the chance of the asteroid actually striking our great blue orb at *only* 0.41% with initial estimates thinking it clears the planet by about 3,000 miles. That feels like a big enough gap, but considering the vastness and infinite nature of space, I’d say it’s still a little too close for comfort.
Even if it did spike that less than 1% chance of impact, scientists say there still isn’t all that much to worry about. The smaller size of asteroid 2018VP1 is less than the danger zone threshold which is about 460 feet in diameter. This one is only about 1% that size so any thoughts of having to send a team of deep oil drillers into space to save the world can be put on hold for the time being. And no, don’t make plans to stand hugging your loved ones while a giant tidal wave decimates you and everything you once knew.
The list of asteroids that have made impact with Earth is a long one, but it’s been about 35 million years since we had a truly devastating collision. That caused the Chesapeake Bay Crater which is about 53 miles wide. Meanwhile, the one forming the Chicxulub Crater in Mexico, which likely dusted off the dinosaurs once and for all, hit about 65 million years ago. This latest one doesn’t even come close to those big boys no worries about a mass extinction event.
The last real *scare* with a space rock came back in 2013 with the Chelyabinsk meteor which exploded in Russia. That one was about 70 feet in diameter. Though no deaths were reported, it caused extensive injuries and considerable damage to buildings in the area. But again, it was more than 10 times the size of this current asteroid.
In all, while an asteroid hitting Earth the day before the election would seem like something that came directly out of a cheesy science fiction novel, we don’t have all that much to worry about for the time being. Now we just have to sit and wait for the next completely crazy thing to come along in 2020.