The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2007 FT3, risks slamming into Earth anytime between October 2019 and October 2116. NASA predicts the overall odds of Asteroid FT3 hitting Earth on any of these 165 dates are low. But should the asteroid veer off course at some future point in its orbit, the space rock could potentially collide with our home planet. The first potential risk date tracked by NASA’s systems falls on October 3, 2019.
After that, NASA’s estimates show the asteroid threatens to hit Earth on October 2, 2024, October 3, 2025, and October 2, 2029.
Asteroid FT3 is an Apollo-type “Near-Earth Object” (NEO) on an orbital trajectory which cuts into Earth’s own orbit of the Sun.
The space rock was first observed by radars on March 20, 2007, and NASA’s threat estimates are based on 14 subsequent observations.
NASA explained: “In the unlikely case where a particular potential impact event persists until the orbit is relatively well constrained, the impact probability and associated risk will tend to increase as observations are added.
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NASA asteroid tracker: A colossal space rock is on a possible collision course with Earth in 2019
“This is not too paradoxical: If an asteroid is indeed going to come very near the Earth then a collision cannot be ruled out early on.
“The impact probability will tend to grow as the orbit is refined and alternative and safer trajectories are eliminated.
“Eventually, the impact probability will drop – usually quite abruptly – to zero or, if the asteroid is really on a collision trajectory, it will continue to grow until it reaches 100 percent.”
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, Asteroid FT3 measures around 1,115.5ft (340m) in diameter.
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NASA further estimates FT3 weighs in at a frightening 55,000,000,000kg.
The impact probability and associated risk will tend to increase as observations are added
And should the asteroid strike the Earth in the next 100 years, FT3 will have an atmospheric entry speed of 20.37km per second which translates into 45,566mph (73,332kph).
This means the asteroid could hit Earth with the brute force of 2,700 Megatons (Mt) of TNT or 2,700,000,000 tonnes of TNT.
An asteroid impact this powerful is 54-times more deadly than the 50Mt Tsar Bomba – the most powerful nuclear device ever built and detonated.
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NASA asteroid tracker: The space rock is tracked by NASA’s Sentry systems
NASA asteroid tracker: The probability of impact at this moment is very low
For comparison, the US nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima packed the power of 13Kilotons (KT) to 18Kt of TNT – 13,000 to 18,000 tonnes of TNT.
But what exactly are the odds Asteroid FT3 will pass close enough to clip our home world?
The cumulative chance of cataclysm currently stands at a 0.00015 percent chance of Earth impact over the next 165 dates.
This is the equivalent of one in 11,000,000 odds of impact or a 99.9999908 percent chance the asteroid will miss us.
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On the closest approach date in October this year, there is a much smaller 0.0000092 percent chance of impact.
The most likely date of impact appears to be October 3, 2073, when NASA estimates a 0.000012 percent chance of catastrophe – one in 8,300,000 odds of impact.
The least likely date of impact falls on October 3, 2082, when there is a minimal 0.000000011 chance of the asteroid hitting.
The asteroid is tracked by NASA’s Sentry” Earth Impact Monitoring systems, part of the JPL’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies.
NASA’s Sentry systems keep track of all asteroid threats hurtling around the solar system and should danger arise, Sentry alerts the appropriate authorities.
The US space agency explained: “Sentry is a highly automated collision monitoring system that continually scans the most current asteroid catalogue for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years.
“Whenever a potential impact is detected it will be analysed and the results immediately published here, except in unusual cases where we seek independent confirmation.”
As NASA refines its orbital trajectory observations, asteroid risks are often taken off NASA’s systems.