Slim Chance 150-Foot-Wide Asteroid Could Hit Earth This Year, Officials Say

By Paula Liu

There is a football field-sized asteroid heading in Earth’s direction, and there is a possibility that it could collide with Earth, according to multiple reports.

The asteroid, 2006 QV89, which was discovered on Aug. 29, 2006 through the Catalina Sky Survey, is a space rock that cycles around the sun, taking around 475.4 days to make a full cycle. The asteroid measures 164 feet in diameter. According to the European Space Agency, it is estimated that the asteroid could potentially hit earth on Sept. 9, based on the ESA’s list of most worrisome objects in space around the Earth.

Despite being fourth on the list of the top 10 most concerning objects around the Earth, scientists estimate that the asteroid only has a one in 7,000 of a chance of actually colliding with Earth, which makes it not as frightening as it was initially made out to be. Fox News reported that, according to modeling from the ESA, the asteroid might be likely to pass Earth instead. It is currently around 4.2 million miles away from the Earth, and, despite there being a chance the modeling might be off, the ESA noted that the chance is less than one-hundredth of 1 percent.

According to U.S. News, the asteroid has previously made seven close approaches to Earth since 1952, the closest one being in September 2006. The ESA estimated that there is a possibility that this object may come as close as 1.6 million miles from Earth. The agency also estimates that the next time the asteroid might make a close encounter with Earth would be in 2032.

According to both news outlets, this isn’t the first asteroid that has made its way near Earth.

So-called Near Earth Objects (NEO), or objects like asteroids or comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit, have been spotted 18,000 times in 2018 alone, according to the Planetary Society.

Past Cases

An asteroid larger than 12 football fields was reported to be passing near Earth in February 2018 and was being watched by NASA as a “potentially hazardous asteroid,” or PHA.

The asteroid, named 2002 AJ129, was estimated by NASA to be 0.68 miles in diameter—more than the height of the world’s largest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the width of Central Park, both of which are about half a mile.

On Feb. 4, 2018 the asteroid was set to pass as close as 2,492,834 miles from Earth, according to an April 2017 prediction, at speeds of 67,000 mph, the Daily Mail reported.

NASA is particularly concerned about asteroids that are over 500 feet in diameter and closer than 4.6 million miles from Earth. These types of asteroids are classified as PHAs.

Meteoroid Smacks Into The Moon

As previously reported, during a lunar eclipse at the beginning of 2019, a meteorite zoomed by and smacked the moon in the face, researchers said.

On Jan. 21, moments after the moon entered into a total lunar eclipse, a meteorite hit the red-hued moon, which caused a brief and bright flash of light that was visible to people across the northern hemisphere, according to Live Science. The flash of light caught the attention of amateur astronomers as the moon was eclipsed by the Earth and shrouded in darkness.

Witnessing impacts like this are extremely rare given their unpredictability. Many objects impact the moon every year, but they’re not always seen.

Holly Kellum contributed to this report.