Again, some sites are reporting possible asteroid collisions with our planet in 2020. Social media profiles and YouTube videos talk about some cosmic objects – which do exist – alarming about some tragedy that would happen this year, usually citing NASA as the source in the news. Calm down, nothing like that will happen now, and not even in the next few years.
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It is common for NASA and other space agencies to report their research on space objects that are or will be close to Earth, but none of all those already discovered is a real threat from some catastrophic collision. The truth is that those who can get too close to our planet are too small to pose any risk to our lives.
One is the 2018 VP1, a small asteroid that could come closer to Earth than the Moon, and perhaps even closer than many of our orbiting telecommunications satellites. Most asteroids of this type are detected only after they pass through us, but in this case, it was spotted years before it happened. Space rocks like this can, in fact, pass very close, and can even enter our atmosphere like meteors.
There is also another famous asteroid in the sensational news, the 2011 ES4. It is much larger than the previous one, about 50 meters in diameter, something that, if it collided with Earth, could do some damage, probably similar to the object that passed over Russia in 2013, in the city of Chelyabinsk.
But then, is there any risk?
As for these two asteroids mentioned, no! The 2018 VP1 has an estimated size of only about two meters. An asteroid of this size is likely to be almost completely burned when it collides with our atmosphere. In addition, there is a lot of uncertainty about how close this specific asteroid can get to Earth – according to NASA, it can approach in about 7,500 km or even 418,429 km.
There is a mathematical method for determining the risk of an asteroid crashing into Earth – the Palermo Impact Threat Scale. There is another similar scale, called the Turin Scale, which has simpler understanding values. On the Palermo scale, the risk of impact of the 2018 VP1 is -3, which means that it is not worthy of concern. On the Torino scale, it is not even registered.
The 2011 ES4 has a chance of reaching approximately 72,400 km from Earth on September 1st. This rock looks dangerous and poses some fear if you talk about its size, but it will be further away than all the satellites in orbit. Again, this asteroid is not even registered on the Torino Scale. In fact, none of the thousands of asteroids that have already been discovered and are cataloged as close to Earth are currently registered on this scale.
Furthermore, even if the 2011 ES4 arrives here, at most we would have an event like the one in Chelyabinsk, which has not resulted in any serious tragedy. There is also a good chance that it will fall apart as it passes through the atmosphere, falling into some ocean or forest.
Finally, it is important to say that the scenario can change at any time. Asteroids are difficult to detect, especially the smaller ones, as they are not very bright. Therefore, it is possible that NASA or ESA will encounter some real threat in the vicinity at any time. But, until then, nothing to worry about.