(CNN) A newly discovered asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool has a ‘small chance’ a collision with Earth in 23 years with possible implications for Valentine’s Day in 2046, according to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
The asteroid has a 1 in 625 chance of hitting Earth, based on data projections from the European Space Agency, although NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sentry system has calculated the probability closer to 1 in 560. The latter keeps track of possible collisions with celestial objects.
But the space rock – named 2023 DW — is the only object on NASA’s Hazard List to rank 1 out of 10 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, a metric used to categorize the projected risk of an object colliding with Earth. All other objects have a rank of 0 on the Torino scale.
Although DW 2023 tops the list, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, its ranking of 1 means only that “the probability of a collision without cause for public attention or concern is extremely unlikely,” while a 0 ranking means the “probability of one.” Collision is zero or so small that it is effectively zero.”
“This object is not particularly alarming”, said Davide Farnocchia, a navigational engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA officials have warned that the likelihood of an impact could change dramatically as more observations of 2023 DW are collected and additional analysis is conducted.
“Often when new objects are first discovered”, NASA asteroid clock noted Tuesday on Twitter, “It takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties and adequately predict their orbits years into the future.”
Danger of an asteroid impact
It is common for newly discovered asteroids to appear more threatening at first glance.
“Because orbits derived from very limited observing sets are more uncertain, such orbits are more likely to ‘allow’ future impacts,” notes the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at Jet Propulsion Laboratory on its website.
“However, such early predictions can often be ruled out if we include more observations and reduce the uncertainties in the object’s orbit,” it says. “Most of the time, the threat associated with a given object decreases as additional observations become available.”
Due to the asteroid’s proximity to the moon, it could take a few days before new data can be collected, Farnocchia noted in an email to CNN. The last full moon was two days ago, and it still appears bright and large in the sky, likely obscuring 2023 DW from immediate observation, he said.
“But then the object remains observable for weeks (even months with larger telescopes), so we can get lots of observations if needed,” he added.
The asteroid measures about 160 feet (about 50 meters) in diameter, according to NASA data. As 2023 DW orbits the sun, it has 10 predicted close approaches to Earth, with the next touchdown on February 14, 2046 and nine more between 2047 and 2054. The asteroid’s closest touchdown to Earth is expected to be about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), notes NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids website.
The space rock was first sighted in our skies on February 2nd.
It’s moving at about 15.5 miles per second (25 kilometers per second) at a distance of more than 11 million miles (18 million kilometers) from Earth, completing one loop around the Sun every 271 days.
Farnocchia pointed to the success of NASA’s DART mission, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test. in September 2022 as evidence that humanity can be prepared to encounter space rocks on potentially catastrophic courses. DART deliberately made a spacecraft collide with an asteroid to change its trajectory.
“That’s exactly why we flew this mission,” he said, “and this mission was a spectacular success.”