A football field-sized space rock is currently making its way toward Earth and is poised for a close encounter later this year. Hurtling through the void of space at 27,560 mph, the asteroid will get here in about three months’ time, making a close approach to our planet in late September.
Known as asteroid 2006 QV89, the wayfaring space rock has been making headlines recently after the European Space Agency (ESA) placed it on its risk list. Estimated to measure around 131 feet in diameter, the asteroid currently ranks fourth on the ESA risk list for near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) – space rocks that circle the sun on an orbital path which allow them to approach Earth’s vicinity.
According to Science Alert, the reason for its inclusion on the ESA red list has to do with the fact that the asteroid stands a tiny chance of coming a little too close for comfort during its impending close flyby of Earth. A recent report from ESA indicates that when asteroid 2006 QV89 swings by in September, it comes with a very small risk of slamming into Earth instead of harmlessly whizzing past us in its journey around the sun.
This has fueled some concern, which has since exploded on the Internet after being blown out of proportion by websites churning out alarmist headlines, notes Science Alert. However, in the past couple of days, numerous media outlets have made it a point to clear the air and explain exactly how high the impact risk actually is. And, judging by the ESA numbers, the chances of asteroid 2006 QV89 hitting us in September are slightly higher than zero.
No, You Shouldn't Freak Over The Asteroid With a Tiny Risk of Hitting Us in September https://t.co/nSUE4ramZT
— ScienceAlert (@ScienceAlert) June 8, 2019
First discovered 13 years ago – on August 29, 2006, to be exact – asteroid 2006 QV89 has long been observed by NASA and ESA asteroid trackers. As CNET explains, after analyzing its orbital path for more than a decade, scientists have determined that the asteroid will pay Earth a close visit on September 26, at 7:03 a.m.
Current orbital path models show that the space rock will safely pass by our home world, coming only within 4.25 million miles of the planet’s surface. To put that into perspective, that’s 17.84 times the distance to the moon.
While these calculations are still regarded as being correct, ESA pointed out that “there’s a roughly one hundredth of 1 percent chance the model is way off and it hits our planet instead,” states CNET.
“To better estimate the odds that 2006 QV89 could give us trouble, ESA has been remeasuring images of it from over a decade ago, but the new assessment has yet to change the chance of impact much.”
— CNET (@CNET) June 6, 2019
Although the prospect of a potential asteroid impact sounds understandably chilling, the odds that 2006 QV89 will actually crash into Earth are very slim. ESA calculations have revealed that the space rock has a 1 in 7,299 chance of striking Earth.
“That’s nowhere near the 1 in 100 threshold that would mean we need to take action.”
“You’re more likely to die from excessive cold, which has a 1 in 6,045 chance of happening,” notes CNN.
One of the reasons why asteroid 2006 QV89 has sparked so much worry is its relatively hefty proportions. At 131 feet wide, the space rock is double the size of the now-famous Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere over Russia on February 15, 2013, damaging more than 7,200 buildings and injuring nearly 1,500 people.
While a meteor the size of 2006 QV89 would certainly cause some serious damage should it penetrate Earth’s atmosphere, CNN points out that the space rock is actually “not that big.” Aside from asteroid 2006 QV89, there are 869 other NEAs on ESA’s risk list – some of them nearly 0.6 miles wide. Meanwhile, our future celestial visitor only measures about the length of two bowling alleys placed end to end, as shown by Live Science.