How likely is a collision with Earth?

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Two French amateur astronomers have discovered an asteroid about 50 meters in size that could come dangerously close to Earth. According to the U.S. space agency, there is a “very small possibility” that the chunk, with the catalogue name 2023 DW, could impact Earth in February 2046.

Discovered on February 26 by Georges Attard and Alain Maury as part of the MAP asteroid search program at Maury’s private observatory in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, the cosmic chunk will take 271 days to orbit the Sun. According to initial calculations, it is expected to approach within 0.0005 astronomical units of our Earth on February 14, 2046.

According to data from the European Space Agency (ESA), there is a 1 in 625 chance that the 2023 DW asteroid will hit Earth. Its U.S. counterpart, NASA, sees the probability of a hit even slightly higher, at 1:560. However, the exact trajectory of the asteroid cannot yet be predicted with certainty, they say.

“When new objects are discovered, it often takes several weeks of data to reduce uncertainties and adequately predict orbits for future years. Orbit analysts will continue to monitor asteroid 2023 DW and update predictions as more data come in,” NASA tweeted.

Although the asteroid has been placed on NASA and ESA risk lists, the likelihood of it impacting Earth is very low, experts reassure. Astronomers have identified thousands of asteroids near Earth and are monitoring their trajectories.

Asteroids are considered remnants of the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Most orbit the Sun far from Earth, between Mars and Jupiter, but some can come dangerously close to our home planet.

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