Is an asteroid on a collision course with earth? Probably not, but a scientist at the University Of Texas’ McDonald Observatory has refused to rule it out.
Dr Judit Györgyey-Ries, who works at the institution’s observatory, has predicted that the rock will fly past the earth in October, 2017. But Ries has downplayed fears that the asteroid could pose any serious threat to humanity or earth, even though it’s the size of the Statue of Liberty.
Speaking to astronomy website Astro Watch, via the Mirror, Ries stated that if the space rock did hit earth, then it could cause damage comparable to when an asteroid hit Russia back in 2013, which resulted in over a thousand injuries.
“It’s something to keep an eye on. We could see an airburst maybe broken windows, depending on where it hits,” she declared.
Researchers and scientists have estimated that the asteroid, which they have called Asteroid 2012 TC4, is actually around 40 meters wide.
However, Ries admitted that it’s very unlikely that the asteroid will actually come into contact with our planet.
“It has a 0.00055% cumulative chance that it will hit,” Ries remarked, via Space Coast Daily. “The fact that the MOID [minimum orbit intersection distance] is only 0.079 LD flags it as a possible impactor. However it is just the smallest possible distance between the orbits.”
Despite the fact that NASA’s Asteroid Watch has insisted that the asteroid won’t actually hit earth, Ries wants more observations and research to be conducted before she dismisses it entirely.
“Although it has a large uncertainty along the orbit, it is much less than the radial uncertainty, so it just changes the tie of the closest flyby,” she declared. “I would say based on this, there is no chance of impact in 2017, but more observations could help to reduce the uncertainties.”
Detleft Koschny, who works as head of the European Space Agency’s head of the near-earth object segment, also isn’t convinced that the asteroid will actually strike terra firma.
“There is a one in a million chance that it could hit us,” he explained.
In fact, Koschny even dismissed the estimated size of the asteroid.
“The size was estimated from the brightness, but we don’t know the reflectivity,” he remarked. “So it could be smaller or larger, assume from 10 to 40 metres. A 40m iron object would go through the atmosphere and make a crater; a 10m rock object would hardly be noticed.”
Makoto Yoshikawa, a member of NEOs Division at the International Astronomical Union, also downplayed allegations that the asteroid could hit Earth, stating, “The distance is very small. But this distance does not mean collision.”
[Image via JHU]