An asteroid could collide with Earth with the force of a 12-megaton bomb, Wyoming astronomer says

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

You might want to wait to make plans for Valentine’s Day – in 2046.

This is the predicted day the asteroid 2023 DW, which was discovered on February 26, could cross Earth. The object, estimated to be around 164 feet in diameter, has a 1 in 607 chance of crashing into our planet.

And while the impact of a 50 meter wide boulder might not be considered an ELE (extinction level event, for those who haven’t seen the 1998 movie “Deep Impact”), a collision could still create an 800 square mile disaster area.

“An interesting comparison is the Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908,” said Daniel Dale, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Wyoming. “The object responsible for the Tunguska event was estimated to be 50-80 meters in diameter, similar to estimates of the size of this object.

“The event destroyed 80 million trees over 2,150 square kilometers,” Dale said.

This is equivalent to approximately a 12 megaton bomb. By comparison, Little Boy, the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan on August 6, 1945, was 15 kilotons.

Possible impact path for asteroid DW 2023, which is expected to strike Earth on February 14, 2046.

Discover the asteroids

Dale said scientists spot these objects in surveys that repeatedly scan the night sky.

“Any object that appears to be moving relative to the background field of stars in the Milky Way is a candidate for an asteroid,” Dale told Cowboy State Daily.

“The trajectory is calculated based on tracking motion over a series of observations. With an estimate of the trajectory and velocity, one can extrapolate its future trajectory over time,” he said.

The European Space Agency reported the discovery of the asteroid, and the celestial object was added to the top of the agency’s “risk list,” which tracks objects that could impact Earth.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the world ends on February 14, 2046.

Turin scale

2023 DW is rated on the Turin Scale, which rates the severity of collision predictions, at Level 1, meaning the asteroid presents “no unusual level of danger”.

For reference, there are 10 ten levels on the Torino Scale, with a 10 capable of causing global climate catastrophe that “could threaten the future of life as we know it”, according to the scale. But level 10 events only happen once every 250,000 years or so.

2023 DW is the only asteroid on the European Space Agency’s risk list that has a ranking of 1. There are 1,448 other asteroids on the list, each ranking 0.

So, although it is not considered a great danger, it remains the most dangerous asteroid on a potential collision course with the planet that we know of.

Impact area

Italian astronomer Piero Sicoli has mapped the possible impact zone, which lies somewhere between the Indian Ocean and the east coast of the United States.

“With only 3 arc days, I found about a 1 in 400 chance of impact on Feb 14, 2046,” Sicoli tweeted.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office has reported that the risk of 2023 DW impacting the planet in 2046 remains “very low”, noting that when new objects are first discovered, it takes weeks. observations to refine the official predictions.

“Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update forecasts as more data arrives,” the bureau tweeted.

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