An enormous asteroid with a diameter wider than a football field has a roughly one in 7,000 chance of hitting the Earth later this year. However, it’s nothing to lose sleep over.
Known as asteroid 2006 QV89, the space rock, which has a diameter of 164 feet, could potentially hit the planet on Sept. 9, 2019, according to a list of the most concerning space objects compiled by the European Space Agency. The ESA has 2006 QV89 ranked fourth on its top ten list.
According to current modeling, it’s likely that 2006 QV89, which is on the risk list but not the priority list, will pass Earth at a distance of more than 4.2 million miles. The ESA does note that the likelihood of its model being off is less than one-hundredth of one percent.
The space rock was discovered on August 29, 2006, by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Although extremely rare, asteroids have hit the planet previously and caused significant damage.
In 1908, there was an enormous explosion near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Yeniseysk Governorate, Russia, that flattened roughly 770 square miles of forest, likely due to a meteorite. It is now known as the Tunguska event.
Over 100 years later, in an occurrence now known as the Chelyabinsk Event, a meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere on February 15, 2013, over Russia and crashed. The damage from the explosion caused the damage to more than 7,200 buildings and resulted in nearly 1,500 injuries, though none of them were fatal.
NASA has recently expanded its planetary defense protocols, including last year’s unveiling of a bold new plan to protect Earth.
Last June, NASA unveiled a 20-page plan that details the steps the U.S. should take to be better prepared for near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of the planet.
Lindley Johnson, the space agency’s planetary defense officer, said at the time that the country “already has significant scientific, technical and operational capabilities” to help with NEOs, but implementing the new plan would “greatly increase our nation’s readiness and work with international partners to effectively respond should a new potential asteroid impact be detected.”
In addition to enhancing NEO detection, tracking and characterizing capabilities and improving modeling prediction, the plan also aims to develop technologies for deflecting NEOs, increasing international cooperation and establishing new NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols.
According to a 2018 report put together by Planetary.org, there are more than 18,000 NEOs.