CBS Detroit – There’s a video on Youtube saying we are about to have another “very-close encounter” with an asteroid. What the Jet Propulsion Lab in California calls “Near-Earth-Objects” or NEOs. Now keep in mind asteroids have been coming close or have hit our planet for millions of years, and many do daily. The bulk of asteroids and debris in space as you may remember from science class get burned up in the atmosphere, caused by the friction from the air as objects hit the atmosphere going many thousands of miles per hour.
However, one Youtube video says an asteroid called “2018 VP1“, which is about 6 feet diameter will pass within about 300 miles of our planet on November 2, 2020. However, some experts are saying this nothing to fear. First off there’s the math, asteroid “2018 VP1” is projected to come 0.02 times the distance between the earth and the moon. Given that the moon is 239,000 miles away, 0.02 equates to 4,780 miles. Now your thinking that’s far off right? What’s the big deal? Well, when they compute this stuff through orbital mechanics, they use the center of the celestial body, in this case, the earth. The earth is 7,917 miles across, and half that is 3,958 miles. That is where the video correctly gets its 300-mile estimate from, or a drive from Metro Detroit to Sault Sainte Marie in the UP to put it in perspective.
In a recent article to Mlive, astronomer Mike Murray says while this is very close, it is not as bad as it seems. JPL assigns a confidence number or condition code to NEO’s from 0 to 9. “0” being a very “duck and cover” confident and 9 being very uncertain. Asteroid “2018 VP1” scores a 7 which means the projected forecast is uncertain. Part of that is because in 2018 they observed this for 21 days and only formed an orbital arc for 13 days. Murray says that even if this rock were hit to hit a bullseye on earth, it is only 6 feet across. It would have to be 20 times larger to do damage to a city.
On February 15, 2013 the Chelyabinsk meteor entered the earth’s atmosphere over Russia over the southern Ural region. This asteroid was 11 times larger than “2018 VP1” at 66 feet across and was shared on social media everywhere as it appeared brighter than the sun and was visible up to 62 miles away. The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded about 97,000 feet in the air with the force of 400-500 kilotons of TNT, or 26-33 times the energy of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The atmosphere absorbed most of that blast and people were injured from broken windows from nearby buildings. It ended up exploding in an air burst into many pieces. Astronomer Mike Murray says “2018 VP1” would probably break apart or explode like the Chelyabinsk meteor and most that do impact the earth.
So for now the experts and the video makes the point that for now, we’re safe. As we don’t know all the facts on this asteroid’s orbit, but as “2018 VP1” gets closer, hopefully, astronomers will be able to acquire it to make more measurements and know for certain this asteroid’s orbit.
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