Asteroid Sar2667 explodes over the English Channel
If you were to take things at face value when it comes to asteroids, the Earth is in a bit of a pickle.
There are currently over 32,000 known near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and more than 120 known short-period near-Earth comets (NECs).
Each has the ability to cause untold havoc on a local level, with yet more capable of releasing enough destructive energy to shut down the whole planet.
Most of these asteroids are tracked by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and aren’t predicted to come anywhere near the planet for hundreds of years.
However, there is one object hurtling through space which some NASA estimates think could potentially strike the Earth as soon as October 2024.
READ MORE NASA scientists warn over deadly ‘invisible’ asteroids hurtling past Earth
Back in 2007, scientists spotted 2007 FT3 floating through space, but soon lost its flight path.
It hasn’t been spotted since, meaning it is categorised as a “lost asteroid”.
NASA puts it at a 0.0000096 percent — or 1 in 10 million — chance of striking our planet on March 3, 2030.
But there is an altogether more sinister estimate that suggests 2007 FT3 has a probability of 0.0000087 percent, or 1 in 11.5 million chance of striking the Earth on October 5, 2024.
If either strike does occur, the asteroid has the potential to release the energy equivalent to the detonation of 2.6 billion tons of TNT.
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This would be enough to cause a considerable amount of regional destruction but too weak to spur a severe global event like that which sparked the extinction of the dinosaurs.
There are, however, asteroids moving towards the Earth that could cause such devastation.
One object, known as 29075 (1950 DA), is the second riskiest rock on NASA’s agenda and measures a sizeable 0.81 miles (1.3 kilometres), weighing in at 78 million tons (71 metric tons).
Discovered in 1950, scientists lost track of it for 50 years before finding its path once again.
Luckily for us, 29075 (1950 DA) has a 0.0029 percent — or 1 in 34,500 — chance of hitting Earth on March 16, 2880, a time hard to envisage.
If it does strike Earth — unlikely given how advanced civilisation will be by that point — it would release the energy equivalent to 75 billion tons of TNT, which is high enough to completely wipe out humanity.
While scientists are interested in asteroids given the grave danger they pose to Earth, there is another reason why NASA has pumped millions of pounds into its efforts to watch them.
The bulk of scientific interest is largely due to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris in the Solar System process some 4.6 billion years ago.
The Solar System’s huge outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, formed from a mass collection of billions of comets, and leftover pieces from this formation process are built into the comets we see today.
Similarly, the asteroids we see today are made up of the same formation processes of the inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
In short, to understand the Solar System and our place in it, the study of comets and asteroids is vital.
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