According to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about the only thing we don’t have to worry about on the eve of the U.S. elections on Nov. 3 is being blasted to interplanetary bits by a rogue asteroid.
There is a small asteroid headed our way on Nov. 2, according to astronomers, and its odds of actually hitting Earth are about one in 240. But the object, which goes by the name of 2018 VP1, is only about seven feet in diameter, too small to do any damage even if it hit our planet head on, astronomers said.
“Close approaches by small objects of this size are not rare, and even if something of this size were to impact, the object would not likely survive the Earth’s atmosphere,” Donald Yeomans, a senior researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in an email.
The asteroid was discovered in 2018 by astronomers using a robotic telescope called the Zwicky Transient Facility on Palomar Mountain in California, while on the lookout for dangerous space rocks, among other cosmic surprises. The object has not been seen since, which accounts for the uncertainty in its trajectory.
Such encounters are common, but only recently have astronomers’ eyes grown sharp and fast enough to detect them. We live in a shooting gallery, it seems. On Aug. 16, another asteroid, this one about 20 feet in diameter, roughly the size of an S.U.V., zoomed less than 2,000 miles above Earth. Astronomers discovered that asteroid, 2020 QG, just after its close passage, also using the Zwicky telescope.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory maintains a list of such close approaches here.