Deep Breathing, Not Deep Impact: Asteroid 2009 JF1 Won’t Hit Earth Today

Deep Breathing, Not Deep Impact: Asteroid 2009 JF1 Won't Hit Earth Today

I was browsing the science section of Google News earlier this week when a story popped up saying that NASA estimates a space rock the size of the Great Pyramid could hit our planet on May 6, and even an impact is “likely”. This is the kind of message that can get your adrenaline pumping. But don’t be afraid. Asteroid 2009 JF1 will not hit us.

A quick glance at Twitter shows that people are worried about the headlines, with many asking the same question: will it hit Earth? Thankfully, he will be missed, but there’s an interesting story about how he managed to spark those fears in the first place.

The asteroid was on the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Center list of notable risks, but was dropped from the top 10 in February. It was thought to have a 1 in 4,000 chance of hitting the planet during a close approach in May, but new data has put that risk down to 1 in 1,700,000.

As its name suggests, asteroid 2009 JF1 was first observed in 2009, but researchers then lost sight of it and couldn’t get a good idea of ​​its orbital path and direction. proximity to the Earth. Tools for determining asteroid orbits have improved since then, and a fresh look at existing data has highlighted the asteroid’s level of risk.

The ESA said in February that “…the asteroid has now lost its place on our risk list and is relegated with other more commonplace objects that pose minimal threat.” The asteroid is estimated to be about 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter, about the size of a school bus. It’s quite small. The ESA even described a possible impact as “not of concern”.

To put the asteroid’s approach into perspective, the The Asteroid Miss Information Twitter account translated her distance of the Earth in other words. So you could put 898 moons between us and the asteroid.

The asteroid threat is not a fantasy. There have been significant impacts in the past, but there’s no need to worry about every space rock flying around the neighborhood. As CNET’s Eric Mack explains, it’s usually not the headline ones we need to worry about. This is why astronomers are focusing on finding and tracking new objects, and working on planetary defense missions. Feel free to greet asteroid 2009 JF1 safely later this week.

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