Preliminary estimates suggest that a 50-meter space asteroid called 2023DW has about a 1 in 600 chance of collision course with Earth in the next 23 years. The news was tweeted (rif.) by officials from NASA‘s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
Although this is a higher level of risk than average for near-Earth asteroids, it is still a “very small chance” of impact, NASA clarified. Such a level of risk is expected to decrease as clearer observations of the asteroid become available.
The asteroid 2023DW was first detected on February 27 and is estimated to be about 50 meters in diameter, roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The asteroid is expected to make a very close approach to Earth on February 14, 2046.
European Space Agency‘s (ESA) Near-Earth Object Coordination Center predicts a 1 in 625 chance of a direct impact, but probabilistic calculations are being recalculated daily. “Often, when new objects are first discovered, it takes several weeks of data to reduce the uncertainties. Only then can we adequately predict their orbits years into the future” NASA tweeted. “Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023DW and update predictions as more data arrive”.
The direct impact of this asteroid on a collision course with Earth would not be as catastrophic as the 12-kilometer-wide one that killed the dinosaurs when it crashed 66 million years ago. However, 2023DW could still cause serious damage if it were to impact a large city or densely populated area.
The DART planetary defense
A meteor smaller than half the size of 2023DW exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. That generated a shockwave that damaged thousands of buildings and injured about 1,500 people. While the impact with 2023DW is extremely unlikely, scientists are rapidly developing methods to protect Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids like this.
Last week, NASA scientists published four studies confirming that the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission successfully altered the trajectory of a small asteroid after it was struck by a spacecraft. Follow-up missions are currently underway to further refine the effectiveness of this planetary defense technique.