Astronomers in the Ukraine have discovered a massive asteroid on an orbit that could see it impact Earth in 2032. Dubbed 2013 TV135, the 410 metre (1,345 feet) diameter space rock’s current orbit puts its closest pass at a minimum distance of 1.7 million kilometres from Earth, enough for it to be classified as a potentially hazardous object that could hit the Earth in 2032.
If it did hit the Earth, it would impact with the energy of a 2,500 megaton bomb, 50 times bigger than the biggest man-made explosive ever detonated on Earth, the 1961 Russian Tsar Bomba. Over 100,000 square miles would be laid to waste and the Earth’s climate would change significantly in the following years as a result.
However, the actual odds of this happening are fairly astronomical: current calculations give it a 1 in 63,000 of impacting in 2032, a 99.9984 percent chance that it will harmlessly pass us by.
NASA’s Don Yeoman, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program office at JPL, has been quick to play down the realistic threat that 2013 TV135 poses to Earth, stating for the record that “with more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future.”
2013 TV135 was discovered by the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory and since yesterday has been picked up by five other astronomy groups across Europe and Russia. It has been given a rating of 1 out 10 on the Torino scale of Earth impact hazard.
Technically a ‘minor planet’, the rock is by no means the biggest or closest near miss we have had in recent years, or expect to have in the future. 1999 AN10 is an asteroid of nearly 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) diameter, but will more than likely pass within one lunar distance (388,960 kilometres/233,376 miles) and has a one in 10 million chance of hitting Earth in 2027: you’re nearly 2,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than this asteroid impacting Earth against the odds.
99942 Apophis meanwhile, caused a stir in late 2004 when initial observations gave it a comparatively high 2.7 percent chance of the 325 metre (1,066 foot) diameter rock hitting Earth in 2029, breaking a Torino scale record at level 4. It was downgraded to level 1 in 2006 and with further observations, all probability of it impacting Earth has been eliminated.