recent blogs and web postings are erroneously claiming that an asteroid
will impact Earth, sometime between Sept. 15 and 28, 2015. On one of
those dates, as rumours go, there will be an impact --
"evidently" near Puerto Rico -- causing wanton destruction to
the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as
Central and South America. That's the rumour that has gone viral -- now
here are the facts.
no scientific basis -- not one shred of evidence -- that an asteroid or
any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates," said
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object office at the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In fact, NASA's
Near-Earth Object Observations Program says there have been no asteroids
or comets observed that would impact Earth anytime in the foreseeable
future. All known
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have less than a 0.01% chance of
impacting Earth in the next 100 years.
The Near-Earth Object
office at JPL is a key group involved with the international
collaboration of astronomers and scientists who keep watch on the sky
with their telescopes, looking for asteroids that could do harm to our
planet and predicting their paths through space for the foreseeable
future. If there were any observations on anything headed our way,
Chodas and his colleagues would know about it. "If there were any
object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we
would have seen something of it by now," he stated. Another thing
Chodas and his team do know -- this isn't the first time a wild,
unsubstantiated claim of a celestial object about to impact Earth has
been made, and unfortunately, it probably won't be the last. It seems to
be a perennial favourite of the World Wide Web. In 2011 there were
rumors about the so-called "doomsday" comet Elenin, which
never posed any danger of harming Earth and broke up into a stream of
small debris out in space. Then there were Internet assertions
surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, insisting
the world would end with a large asteroid impact. And just this year,
asteroids 2004 BL86 and 2014 YB35 were said to be on dangerous
near-Earth trajectories, but their flybys of our planet in January and
March went without incident -- just as NASA said they would.
"Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other
celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth," said
Chodas. "In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any
credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century." NASA
detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing 30
million miles of Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes.
The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard,"
discovers these objects, characterizes the physical nature of a subset
of them, and predicts their paths to determine if any could be
potentially hazardous to our planet. There are no known credible impact
threats to date -- only the continuous and harmless infall of
meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere.